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Lower Scajaquada speed limit goes into effect as barriers, guardrails go up

The speed limit already has been reduced to 30 mph along the 3.25-mile Scajaquada Expressway, with a dozen speed-limit signs visible in each direction. The jersey barriers protecting Delaware Park runners, walkers and bicyclists were being put in place late Monday morning. And guardrails were going up at the expressway’s edge.

And now state officials have answered one of the remaining questions: Will the lower speed limit be permanent?

A spokesman for the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday afternoon indicated that the speed limit will be staying at 30 mph.

That news no doubt will please city officials and park advocates.

At a press conference Monday morning, Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “I’d like to see it stay 30. Eventually, we’d like to see it configured as a parkway.”

That’s the same sentiment expressed by Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

“Ultimately, this is no longer an expressway,” Crockatt said of her organization’s dream for the thoroughfare. “This is a parkway, where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour, and this is no longer an intrusion running through Delaware Park.”

Crockatt was quick to answer those who may have wondered about the expressway being so close to the park. The park opened in 1868, she noted, while the Scajaquada Expressway was built in the 1950s. That means most Buffalo residents can’t remember a Delaware Park without an expressway running alongside it.

The quick changes ordered by Sunday Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo started taking effect early Monday morning, following the Saturday noontime tragedy that saw a westbound vehicle leave the expressway and enter the park’s Ring Road, killing 3-year-old Maksym Sugorovskiy and critically injuring his 5-year-old sister, Stephanie.

Brown hailed Cuomo’s quick decision and the immediate implementation of the new 30-mph speed limit, noting that the state, not the city, has the jurisdiction to make that change.

The mayor and other city officials still refused to identify the driver Monday morning, saying only that he was given sobriety tests at the scene. The police Accident Investigation Unit has not filed any charges in the case, and Brown would not say whether there was any indication of alcohol use or a medical crisis.

“The investigation is ongoing. It will be quite thorough,” Brown said, adding that it could take weeks.

Everyone – from city officials and parks advocates to power walkers and joggers – offered the same sentiment Monday morning: that it was so sad that it took such a tragedy to effect changes that have been supported and discussed for years.

But on Monday morning, news of the tragedy and the erection of all the new 30-mph signs had virtually all motorists traveling between 26 and 33 mph along one stretch where an electronic sign quickly records a vehicle’s speed.

Deputy Police Commissioner Kimberly Beaty stood near the crash site on the Ring Road on Monday morning, looked out at the markedly slower expressway traffic and provided an epitaph of sorts for the 3-year-old:

“That’s out of respect for little Maksym, an adorable little boy.”