We are well-aware of the challenges this project presents for the city of Buffalo. These also play into ongoing correspondence with the NYSDOT, whom are ultimately in charge of the project. That is why we want to address any major concerns as we move forward.
These Frequently Asked Questions are the most common concerns among residents, developers, and business owners. Their respective answers will help clear any confusion or misinformation that arises as the mission continues to take shape.
1. How much will this project cost?
The 2015 estimate for a Humboldt Parkway Promenade is at $570 million. This comes from Alternative D selected by ROCC in a series of studies conducted by the NYSDOT. Additionally, $4 million is being sought for the Environmental Impact Study to determine the ecological feasibility of each alternative.
2. Who will fund this project?
In accordance to many like-minded projects in other cities, this will be funded through state and federal funding programs geared towards repairing infrastructure.
One example is Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding. With an infusion of $500 million in April 2015, the grant is specifically intended to boost struggling communities with transportation improvement initiatives, which gives residents access to employment, healthcare, education opportunities. The net benefit of community revitalization will help make Buffalo’s East Side neighborhoods an active part of the city’s current redevelopment.
3. Who will design and construct the new promenade?
The design and construction teams will be determined by the NYSDOT once the funding and timeline for the project is secured.
One useful mechanism that is being explored is the Design-Build Method. This method puts the design and construction timelines under the same direct supervision, which addresses any potential challenges that would occur through either phase. This preemptive process will reduce delays that would increase the overall project cost. St. Louis’ I-64 successfully utilized Design-Build to the effect that it reduced its $535 million cost upon its ahead-of-schedule completion in 2009.
4. Who will maintain the new Humboldt promenade?
The promenade will be under joint maintenance between the NYSDOT and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy. NYSDOT will continue to maintain the Kensington Expressway, where the subject portion will function as a tunnel. The overhead cover will function as a promenade resembling the original Humboldt Parkway. It will be implemented into the Olmsted Parks System under the care of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy. Funding for maintenance will go into the city’s annual budget.
5. Why not bury the Kensington Expressway instead of covering over it?
There has been repeated confusion behind the ultimate fate of the Kensington Expressway.
Although there are examples highlighted in our Case Studies of freeway covering versus freeway removal, we at ROCC have chosen freeway covering for a very important reason.
The only available option pertaining to freeway removal would actually not be a removal at all. Alternative E would bring the Kensington Expressway up to grade level, bringing 50 mph traffic directly up to neighborhood homes. The $130 million plan would increase existing safety and environmental problems, and offer no feasible investment for area residents.
Although a complete removal of the Kensington Expressway would strengthen the chances of restoring the other 2 miles of Humboldt leading to Delaware Park, this plan would have to be supplemented with an alternative transit link between Downtown Buffalo and the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. Genesee Street provides the easiest option, since the Kensington terminates at Genesee directly in front of the airport. Plans would open discussion for an eastward Metro Rail expansion.
As of today, no such plan for an alternative transit link has been formalized. Therefore, the expressway will remain as a vital link between downtown and the airport.
6. What are the benefits from this project?
A new Humboldt Parkway Promenade will restore about a third of the original boulevard that once served as a tree-lined pathway between Delaware Park and Martin Luther King Parks. The subject area covers 14.5 acres, nearly a mile in length between East Ferry and Best Streets. The $570 million cost will help remediate the negative impact the Kensington Expressway brought to Buffalo’s neighborhoods since its implementation in the 1960s.
Based from UB’s Economic Impact Study, neighborhoods with prominent greenspace generates higher property values, which lends itself to improved income, safety, and health for residents. Healthier neighborhoods will eventually spur further investments in the Jefferson and Fillmore Avenue commercial districts, which both bookend the Humboldt Parkway corridor.
A net investment of over $1 billion is set for over a 20 year timeframe if the new Humboldt Parkway Promenade is implemented successfully.
7. When will the project start?
The start date has yet to be determined.
Continuing discussions with the NYSDOT on alternatives requiring public approval, as well as advocacy from local and state elected officials will be followed by the funding process. Right now, ROCC is seeking funding sources through state and federal grants geared towards transportation and community improvements.
8. How long will the project take?
Construction is estimated to last about five years. Once funding is secured, an architectural design team will be selected alongside a construction team. Both may be chosen under the Design-Build program, which has proven efficient in reducing delays on infrastructural projects by staying on budget and sometimes finishing ahead of schedule.
Although there is no official date for when the project will begin, our goal is to reach the shovel-ready stage within the next two years.
9. Why is Alternative D so expensive?
The project requires a widening of the six-lane expressway in order to sustain the overhead promenade and the trees that will be planted above the tunnel.
Additionally, the existing walls of the Kensington Expressway have deteriorated to the point where they have a very limited lifespan (estimated 2 – 4 years). These new walls will not only support the promenade, they will also contain a new drainage system to protect the tunnel from weathering deterioration. The walls will have a 75-year lifespan.
The $570 million is only an estimate. The final price will be decided one the proper funding has been secured, and the design and construction teams have been selected.
10. What about the rest of Humboldt Parkway (between Agassiz Circle and East Ferry Street)?
Our current collaboration with the Scajaquada Coalition Corridor (SCC), and our outreach to Assemblymember Sean Ryan are synchronizing the discussions between Humboldt and Scajaquada Parkways, since both are part of the Olmsted Park System.
Scajaquada has succeeded in getting the speed limit reduced from 50 mph to 30 mph, and will expect to see short-term traffic-calming measures in the near future. Neighbors from Parkside, which directly borders Delaware Park, are also seeking to restore Agassiz Circle. This Olmstedian roundabout is where Humboldt Parkway begins, and it marks the formal entrance into Delaware Park.
Two main challenges will be addressed for the remainder of Humboldt. One will be to find a solution for the path that runs over the tunneled Scajaquada Creek, which is located along the axis of the pedestrian bridge near Northland Avenue.
The next challenge concerns the reintegration of the Trinidad and Meadowview neighborhoods. The Trinidad Neighborhood can only be accesses from Kensington Avenue across from Sisters Hospital. Meadowview can only be accessed through Agassiz Circle going north past Medaille College.
The progress of Scajaquada, and the ongoing evolution of Humboldt will eventually lead to the focus on Humboldt Parkway between Agassiz and East Ferry Street.