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State suspends work on Scajaquada crossings pending community input

The state Department of Transportation is suspending work on two new pedestrian crosswalks on the Scajaquada Expressway so that safety concerns can be addressed.

“The decision to stop work was in response to community concerns about the crossing locations on the Scajaquada, one west of Delaware Avenue and the other east of Elmwood Avenue at the intersection of Iroquois Drive and Lincoln Parkway,” said Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll late Friday.

Community meetings will be held on the issue, delaying the work until at least the spring, officials said.

“Safety is our top priority and we will continue to work with the community and local leaders to enhance safety on the Scajaquada as we move forward with plans for long-term transformative changes that will bring the corridor into harmony with the surrounding community,” Driscoll added.

Mayor Byron W. Brown said he was pleased to learn that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and DOT officials have suspended the work and will continue to engage the community in finding solutions to the problems with the roadway.

No dates for community meetings on changes to the expressway have been set.

Plans to slow traffic and make the expressway more of a parkway emerged following the May 30 accident that claimed the life of 3-year-old Maksym Sugorovskiy and seriously injured his 5-year-old sister, Stephanie. A car veered off the expressway and struck the children and their mother on Delaware Park’s Ring Road.

Attorneys for the family have notified the city, state and Erie County of plans to file a civil suit over the fatal incident unless acceptable financial deals can be reached before the matter ends up in court.

Motorists have had difficulty adjusting to the new lower speed limits, resulting in a high number of speeding tickets. And, just on Thursday morning, there was a rush-hour chain reaction accident in which a 26-year-old woman was charged with improper speed; she was injured and her sport utility vehicle ended up on its side near Parkside Avenue.

Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, which has been championing the changes in the Scajaquada to prevent future tragedies, called the decision to temporarily suspended crosswalk construction “a wise step toward ensuring design solutions we can all benefit from and support.

“A tremendous opportunity is before us and more than anything we want these short- and long-term changes to be successful,” Crockatt said.

Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, said it had become clear in recent months “that a more comprehensive set of traffic-calming measures must be implemented and they must be implemented together in order to be effective. I am confident that engaging in a dialogue with local officials and community members will help to guide this process in a positive direction and I look forward to the upcoming discussions.”

Susan S. Surdej, spokeswoman for the DOT, said that once Cuomo ordered the department to reduce the speed limit on the Scajaquada from 50 to 30 miles per hour in the wake of the fatal accident, the DOT began implementing several safety and traffic-calming improvements on the expressway corridor.

That work has already included the installation in June of a guide rail to separate vehicle and pedestrian traffic, with a permanent guide-rail system planned this fall that would be more in keeping with the aesthetics of the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Delaware Park, she said.

In August, the roadway was re-striped with narrower lanes and hatched striping on wide areas of the shoulder. Stop signs replaced merge signs at ramps on the expressway, she noted.

In June, Surdej said, temporary flashing speed notification signs were installed on the expressway, with permanent “reduced speed ahead” signs with flashing beacons planned to be installed this fall to provide advanced warning of the lowered speed limit on the expressway.