State Dept. of Transportation Unveils Plans for Scajaquada

198 to become boulevard with traffic lights, intersections, roundabout

Mike Baggerman
August 08, 2017 - 10:45 pm

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – New York State’s Department of Transportation unveiled its latest renderings for the Scajaquada Expressway, which would become Scajaquada Boulevard by 2023.

The proposal includes new bike paths on each side of the Scajaquada Corridor, a reduction of the median, a traffic circle, intersections with traffic lights, and several other new amenities.

WATCH: NYS Department of Transportation's presentation on Scajaquada Boulevard

“Currently it exists as an expressway but as everyone knows, we’ve reduced the speed limit to 30 miles per hour,” New York State’s Department of Transportation Commisioner Matt Driscoll told WBEN. “Part of what that means in the de-designation of the expressway is the big overhead signs would come off, it would only be small signage of the side. You have reduced lanes. Many of those short-term traffic calming improvements we’ve already done. People can see them now with the re-striping we’ve done.”

The median between the east and west bound traffic was originally proposed to be 12 feet wide but after complaints, the DOT reduced it to four feet in width.

“That is a requirement to have a median by federal highway,” Driscoll said.

A traffic circle along the boulevard would provide commuters with the option of turning onto Grant Street by Buffalo State, continue east or west along the road, or even switch paths. The renderings call this the “New Gateway Roundabout”.

Several intersections will become commonplace along the boulevard. Similar to what is at various intersections of Niagara Falls Boulevard, walkers will have the option of pressing a button to stop traffic in order to safely cross the road.

Driscoll defended the additions to the boulevard and the concern over slower times during rush-hour traffic by using its current speed in his argument.

“It’s already 30 miles per hour so that’s not going to change,” he said. “The signalization that is going to be in there would be timed in a way to keep traffic moving efficiently. The traffic is slowed down now and the people are already familiar with that. Those who don’t use the Scajaquada now have found other alternatives.”

Driscoll said the state “has gone as far as we can” regarding the project and said there will be no modifications to the project moving forward.

“What we’re rolling out is the final project,” Driscoll said. “We certainly hope people will be supportive of that. I have committed, the department has committed, to continuing conversations with people for another series of potential improvements in the next capital plan. That offer is still on the table. But the design we’re showing (Tuesday) is our final design.”

Next, the state will submit their draft environmental impact statement to the federal highway, who will then review it and return it to the state DOT. Driscoll said they hope to have that process wrapped up by December and begin the request for proposal process begin in late-spring. He then believes that if everything goes to plan, the construction will begin in the summer of 2018.

Public Reaction

"I'd like to see the traffic volume reduced but I don't think that's gonna be possible," Nadine Cook of Buffalo said. "I live close to the expressway so noise is a big factor and dust. I can't open my windows because of the fumes and the dust that comes through. On a hot summer night sometimes it's tough to hear the television."

Cook said she lives by Medaille College and wishes to walk to Shakespeare in the Park, but said it's difficult to happen.

"For me, (traffic lights) would increase the fumes," she said. "It would increase people's frustration when they stop at red lights and try to make up the speed when they get through the red light."

She also cited the industrial area west of Grant Street and was concerned that the area is too industrial to be a part of the boulevard.

"If they include that area as part of this work I think it's senseless because there's nothing there," she said. "Unless they're going to lower the pavement of the 198 to go through there so it becomes more of a boulevard in that part of the city."

Mark Paradowski called the presentation a "farce".

"They gave the same answers," he said. "They can't put in any of our requested changes because it would halt traffic. But that's specifically what we're trying to do is get traffic out of our parks."

He wanted the removal of the Scajaquada in its entirely, calling it a "useless highway" and talked about cities like San Francisco and Rochester gutting their urban highways.

"The whole point of reducing lanes and reducing sizes and removing highways is that traffic finds other ways to proceed," he said. "They take other roads, they travel at other times, they bike to work, they use public transportation, or it disappears entirely. This is a widely known effect..removing urban highways because traffic volume is not static and it does not work the way they are describing it."

Kevin Rabener from Buffalo said he'd love to see the highway removed and become a park road, but said if it couldn't be done, it needs to be a 30 mile per hour road with crossings, which the state plans on doing.

"I hope it goes far enough as far as making the intersections not too wide because wide intersections, even with lights, can be dangerous for pedestrians," Rabener said. "I would like it to be comfortable for people and bikes and cars. If it's 30 (miles per hour) and at grade, that's good. I hope it all works out that way."

However, Rabener acknowledged that the original placement of an expressway through a park should not have occurred.

LISTEN: NYSDOT Commissioner Matt Driscoll on the future of the Scajquada Expressway

 

 

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