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4 possible plans for Scajaquada Expressway aired at public meeting

A crowd of seated people watch a wall monitor with a slide on it.
Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
A full house listens to plans for the Scajaquada Expressway Wednesday evening at SUNY Buffalo State.

With enough federal money in the wings for actual construction, planners have four possible futures for Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, from doing essentially nothing to removing it completely.

The four possibilities were explained during a meeting Wednesday evening in SUNY Buffalo State's Alumni & Visitor Center. Planners told the meeting their work is progressing by using 20 years of past studies and plans for the road.

Consultant Stantec Urban Mobility Practice Director Ralph DeNisco said there are misconceptions about who drives the Scajaquada.

The entrance to Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, at Grant Street.
Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
The entrance to Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, at Grant Street.

"Only 20% of the people that are on the expressway are riding it from one end to the other, right? And that's in one direction. The other direction, 8%," DeNisco said. "And this is why we did this kind of analysis. We really wanted to bring this to the community to meet the perception of everybody's just driving through there. That is not the case. It very much functions as a local access route."

That's why several prior plans called for traffic to just be routed onto current city streets. Any of the plans will result in significant changes in the parallel neighborhoods.

One possibility is replacing the current road with an at-grade boulevard.

"Probably the most realistic and best scenario. For sure, the status quo's got to change," said John Saccomanno. "So I live near there. I live at Nottingham and Delaware. My house stares at the exit ramp. It's a complete disaster. So it's dangerous. High traffic. No matter what, that's got to be removed."

Three of the four plans call for that to happen. The other plan calls for modifications on the current road while keeping it.

A map of the neighborhoods in Regional Central.
Highland Planning
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A map of the neighborhoods in Region Central.

Consultant Stantec Project Manager Jeff Sauser said there will be more evaluation of the four proposals, based on public reactions.

"From these four scenarios that we look at tonight, we'll do that evaluation and come back to present that evaluation and let you share in that process," Sauser said. "Ultimately, we'll come up with a preferred scenario, which in all likelihood is a hybrid, calling what's working, what's best in the scenarios. It's not a question of pick your favorite one. It's all a testing process to get to that better scenario which we think will do the best job of realizing those broader community goals."

The planning treats the Scajaquada as a connection with the Kensington, which is undergoing a similar evaluation and all within what's called "Region Central." That's a major swath of the city running west from Fillmore Avenue to the Niagara River, centered on the two highways and their connection.

Stantec Urban Places Fellow David Dixon said the area along the expressway route is changing and will change more over the next 20 years.

The entrance to Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, at Elmwood Avenue.
Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
The entrance to Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, at Elmwood Avenue.

"Eighty percent of net new households in this region or the other region are going to be single new couples without kids," Dixon said, "and guess where they want to live? In great, urban, walkable, mixed-use, diverse neighborhoods. They don't care about whether you get there on the expressway or not. They care about whether they can walk to a park, walk to Scajaquada Creek, walk to a really cool neighborhood store, run into people who are different from them. Because that makes them feel like they're part of a real world."

Stephanie Barber Geter, Steering Committee chair for the Restore Community Coalition, said people don't realize how many different neighborhoods are involved. She wants a roof over much of the Kensington to restore community connections.

Buffalo Common Councilmember Joe Golombek, who represents Black Rock and Riverside neighborhoods, said many people are very cynical about the endless process.

"There's that healthy Buffalo cynicism that says nothing's going to happen and you're going to have the same thing forever. At the same time, I have gotten phone calls from people that said I hope you support full removal, I hope you support leaving it as it is and everything in between," Golombek said. "So what I'm waiting for is to see what the final proposals are."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.