New York State In-depth

The downgrading of the Scajaquada Expressway brings several benefits

Reconnecting Delaware Park in Olmsted has long been a dream for anyone who has witnessed its dismemberment by a freeway. It’s incredible that anyone thought building a highway through a world-class park was a good idea, but unfortunately, urban development across the country in the ’50s and ’60s focused on motor vehicles and how quickly they were emerging from the Suburbs could remove to city centers.

Recently, the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council was commissioned by former Governor Andrew Cuomo to study the impact of Route 198 (Scajaquada Expressway) on our community. This time the focus was on people, not just vehicles, resulting in recommendations that will restore Delaware Park to its former glory.

But what also pleases us is the brilliant vision in the recommendations for the west end of the corridor. Removing the ramps between Route 198 and I-190 will bring myriad benefits to our neighborhoods, restore Scajaquada Creek and recreate Black Rock Harbor.

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The Black Rock Harbor recreation completes the coastal vision of the Outer Harbor, Inner Harbor and Black Rock Harbor intersected and fed by Scajaquada Creek. It is setting the stage for a renaissance similar, if not greater, to the cleanup of the Buffalo River and the benefits to surrounding communities.

We’ve learned a lot since Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper led the Buffalo River cleanup. What was once a contaminated and derelict area is now teeming with economic activity.

As Waterkeeper turns to cleaning up Scajaquada Creek and a strong coalition of groups supports this effort, we are poised to move forward. Pillars for the 198 ramps sit directly in Scajaquada Creek and need to be removed. Dumping into the creek from the Autobahn and elsewhere must stop.

The scar we feel from 198 is similar to what neighbors think of Route 33: neither is acceptable. The reclaimed land around the creek will restore the “broad waters” stolen from the creek’s borders, increasing the value of this land and its connection to SUNY Buffalo State and the Niagara River. Studies such as the Tonawanda Brownfield Report, the Buffalo Waterfront Plan and now the GBNRTC Central Region Plan document the potential value of our waterfront.

Enough planning – let’s work on concrete changes to position our city and region for the future. The economic, environmental and social benefits are countless. Our city deserves a bold and beautiful redesign of our waterfront. The time to act is now.

Mary Ann Kedron, PhD, is President Emeritus of the Black Rock Riverside Alliance and Barbara Rowe is CEO of Vision Niagara.

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