10.19.15

SCHUMER SAYS CONVERTING SCAJAQUADA HIGH-SPEED EXPRESSWAY TO PARKWAY WITH CALMER TRAFFIC PATTERNS, CROSSWALKS, STOP SIGNS & STREET LIGHTS WOULD INCREASE SAFETY; URGES FEDS TO APPROVE PLAN TO RECLASSIFY ROAD AS A PARKWAY

In May, A Car Crossed the Median & Crashed Into Parkside Neighborhood’s Delaware Park – Which Route 198 Cuts Through – Killing A Three-Year-Old Boy And Injuring His Mother & Younger Sister

Schumer: Plan Will Finally Pump The Brakes On Speeding Cars Through the Park & Make the Road Safer 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to approve a plan that would permanently slow traffic and help make Rt. 198, where cars are speeding right through Delaware Park, safer. Schumer said this plan would help reconnect the community and make the road safer, which is necessary following a horrible accident in May, in which a young boy was killed and his mother and little sister severely injured after a soccer game near the expressway.

“The horrible accident this past May was an absolutely preventable tragedy and if we don’t act quick it could happen again,” said Schumer. “That’s why I am urging the federal Department of Transportation to work with New York State and local officials to quickly approve this plan, which would pump the brakes on cars that speed through this area and add greater protection for families and children living in the neighboring Parkside community and wishing to enjoy the adjacent Delaware Park without fear.”

Schumer explained that the Scajaquada Expressway (Route 198) currently serves as a major thoroughfare connecting the Kensington Expressway with the Niagara Thruway. However, this expressway runs directly through Delaware Park and the surrounding Parkside neighborhood. Schumer said, due to the expressway’s proximity to this residential neighborhood and park, local advocates have long pushed to convert the expressway into a parkway. The importance of making this thoroughfare safer by converting it to a parkway was underscored this past May, when three-year-old boy Maksym Sugorovskiy was killed in Delaware Park after a car crashed through the expressway’s median and struck him in the adjacent park. His mother and younger sister were severely injured as well.

Schumer said reclassifying the road would not only improve safety for drivers by reducing speeds, but it would also increase the area’s pedestrian friendliness. Schumer is pushing for a plan that would, first, help the community implement increased safety measures and encourage drivers to abide by the newly lowered speed limit, which was changed from 50 mph to 30 mph following the deadly May crash. Second, the redesign would help create the possibility for bicycle lanes and crosswalks, as well as improved aesthetics along the side of the road. This would mean a greater buffer between the roadway and the park. Finally, the plan would help reunify the park, which was cut in half by this busy expressway. By better integrating the park with crosswalks, sidewalks, and a roadway with traffic signs and slower speeds, Schumer said this plan would increase the safety of the road and neighborhood, returning to the original functionality of this historic Olmstead park.

Schumer said that federal approval is a critical step in making this plan a reality, and the FHWA should work with state and local officials to ensure the safety analysis that is needed to keep the process moving is done so without delay. Schumer said many community members agree that more must be done to increase the safety of the road and complete its transition from a high-speed expressway to a pedestrian-friendly parkway with calmer traffic patterns in order to ensure a tragedy like the one that occurred in May does not happen again.

Schumer was joined by Assemblyman Sean Ryan, Members of the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC), and local advocates.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “I thank Senator Schumer for his strong support of the effort to downgrade the Scajaquada Expressway, and create a parkway. We need the Federal Highway Administration to sign-off on this important change in designation to move forward on short-term and long-term changes to the Scajaquada. We need to restore Delaware Park, and we need to have a safe parkway that is accessible and welcoming to pedestrians. The change in designation will reclassify the Scajaquada as a city street, and ensure the creation of a parkway going forward.”

“We’re thrilled that Senator Schumer is taking action at the federal level on this project. The parkway designation is about correcting a fifty-year-old mistake and restoring the integrity of the original Olmsted design for Delaware Park and reconnecting neighborhoods that have been severed by this roadway. The Senator’s action will ensure that the park is a safer and more vibrant place for Buffalo families to enjoy the outdoors,” said Michael DeLuca, of the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition and Parkside Community Association.

Justin Booth, of Go Bike Buffalo said, “We’ve made tremendous strides in Buffalo building quality of life through safe complete streets that are supporting increased walking, bicycling and public transit use. Rightsizing the 198 from an expressway to a parkway would be of tremendous benefit to cyclists, walkers, and drivers alike. We’re all extremely grateful that Senator Schumer, a known bike enthusiast, is willing to help push this project along fixing an historical mistake. Perhaps when it’s done he can join us for a ride!”

“This designation will significantly help to move forward the process on restoration of Olmsted’s vision for Delaware Park,” said Stephanie Crockatt, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “The reclassification of the Scajaquada is vital in the creation of the kind of roadway in harmony with this historic park and its surrounding communities for future generations of Buffalonians. Senator Schumer’s leadership on this issue is greatly appreciated.” 

Schumer's support and letter to USDOT comes following the development of a parkway plan by regional transportation leaders, including the GBNRTC and other local leaders.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FHWA appears below: 

Dear Administrator Nadeau:

I write to urge you to approve the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and the City of Buffalo’s proposal to reclassify Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, from an “Urban Principal Arterial Expressway” to an “Urban Principal Arterial ‘Other.’” Members of the community believe that a redesign and reclassification of the expressway is necessary to improve the safety of the road and the surrounding park and neighborhoods, and to reconnect the community and to begin the process of restoring Delaware Park to its original Olmstead design.

As you know, the Scajaquada Expressway currently serves as a major thoroughfare connecting the Kensington Expressway with the Niagara Thruway. The expressway runs right through the middle of Delaware Park, as well as the Parkside neighborhood. This expressway severely limits the functionality of an historic Olmsted park and presents significant safety challenges. Community members and advocates have long pushed for the expressway to be converted into a more pedestrian-friendly parkway, with a reduced speed limit, crosswalks, and additional signs and lights. In May, a car crossed the median into Delaware Park. The resulting accident claimed the life of a three-year-old boy and injured his mother and sister. After that tragic incident, NYSDOT lowered the speed limit on the road from fifty to thirty miles per hour, but many community members agree that more must be done to increase the safety of the road and complete its transition from a high-speed expressway to a pedestrian-friendly parkway with calmer traffic patterns. 

I understand that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has received the proposal to reclassify the Scajaquada Expressway, and has begun the review process and requested that a safety analysis be completed. The reclassification of the road will help the community complete the transition of the Scajaquada Expressway into a safer, lower-speed boulevard by implementing measures to encourage drivers to abide by the newly lowered speed limit. This reclassification will also help the community make the changes they wish to implement, such as adding crosswalks, bicycle paths, and traffic calming measures. Again, I urge you to work with NYSDOT and community leaders and approve this plan to reclassify the Scajaquada Expressway.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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