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New report urges turning Scajaquada Expressway back to a parkway

Buffalo would benefit greatly from turning the Scajaquada Expressway into a neighborhood-friendly parkway, according to a policy brief issued Tuesday by an umbrella group representing 207 community organizations.

The brief, drawn up by the Partnership for the Public Good, was released to coincide with a state Department of Transportation public information meeting on the expressway at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Bulger Communications Center at SUNY Buffalo State.

The authors of the brief, Daniel Cadzow and Justin Booth, call for a redesign that would calm traffic, make intersections safer, provide for bike and pedestrian crossings and restore the historic landscape in Delaware Park. They note that elected officials, institutions and more than 3,000 people have declared their support for such a plan.

Cadzow and Booth say a parkway design would reduce accident rates on the Scajaquada, which is higher than the state average, especially at the Parkside Avenue intersection, where 30 precent of the expressway’s accidents occur.

The neighborhood, they add, would benefit in several ways from fewer vehicles using the route once it is no longer a high-speed conduit for car and truck traffic. Noise and air pollution would be reduced, they say, and better provisions could be made to handle storm water runoff that overwhelms sewage treatment facilities.

A parkway plan also would tie together areas separated by the current highway, such as Buffalo State and the Amherst Street business district, and would enhance connections among attractions and institutions along the Scajaquada corridor, which include the Buffalo Zoo, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo History Museum, Buffalo State and Medaille College.

“By redesigning the Scajaquada,” the authors write, “we can create a much stronger backbone of cultural, historical, natural, economic and community assets that can further propel Buffalo along its path of revitalization.”

The policy brief, which opens with a pair of aerial photos showing the Hoyt Lake area of Delaware Park before and after the construction of the expressway, notes that the City of Buffalo and the state DOT conducted a series of studies and came up with an expanded project proposal for the Scajaquada in 2005 that included bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, roundabouts and a 30 mph speed limit.

However, the brief adds, by 2013, “most of these features were removed and the proposed speed limits were 40 or 45 mph.”

The brief concludes by calling for a return to the 2005 plan “as a foundation,” noting that it includes a set of interim measures that could be introduced for a small fraction of the $115 million that the DOT estimates as the cost of reconstructing the Scajaquada.