By Dennis Horrigan
and Stephanie Crockatt
Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, Harbor Drive in Portland, Park East in Milwaukee, Alaskan Way in Seattle, Inner Loop in Rochester, and the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls are all examples of innovative projects that removed highways and restored urban landscapes to better serve their communities.
As we know, the U.S. highway system was an engineering wonderment that rapidly moved people and goods through our cities to create economic gains.
In hindsight, cutting these highways through our cities separated communities, disrupted commerce, blocked access to waterways and destroyed parkland. The six cities listed above have all taken action to remedy and overcome the poor decisions made many years ago. Each of these initiatives have yielded significant economic, social and quality of life benefits to their communities.
The Embarcadero Freeway has created more open space and bike paths. Harbor Drive and Park East have opened river access to waterways and revitalized neighborhoods. The Alaskan Way has reconnected neighborhoods and increased pedestrian walkways, and Inner Loop has enhanced the revitalization of Rochester. In addition to these innovative projects, the City of Dallas is now engaged in an initiative to remove I-345, a Dallas freeway on a national list of targets for highway removal.
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and our cultural partners including the Darwin Martin House, Albright–Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society as well as GoBike Buffalo, Delaware Soccer Club, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Preservation Buffalo Niagara and others, have all united in calling for a halt to the state Department of Transportation plans for the Scajaquada Expressway Route 198 Boulevard. The 198 expressway and Route 33 were constructed in the late 1950s to move traffic and as a result pulled apart communities, impeded pedestrian access to water resources and destroyed parkland.
We are reaching a critical time in our advocacy work aimed at preserving parkland and restoring the historic pedestrian bridge and its natural connection between Delaware Park and Hoyt Lake.
We have been told to take it or leave it by the NYSDOT. We want the community to know our alternative plan is aligned with present-day thinking regarding urban renewal and green space preservation. We view our concept for the 198 as a vital first step for remediating the urban devastation caused by constructing high-speed expressways through our cities.
Our plans call for not only restoring historic Frederick Law Olmsted parkland, but creating a cultural corridor that will bring economic, social and quality-of-life enhancements.Let’s not be left behind and let’s make Buffalo lucky No. 7 in the growing list of innovative cities that are reclaiming valuable urban landscape and reaping equitable economic benefits.
Dennis R. Horrigan is chairman of the board and Stephanie Crockatt is executive director for Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.