Buffalo, NY - As the planning process for the Scajaquada Expressway project winds down, the New York State DOT feels they have done the best they can in turning Route 198 into an urban boulevard.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll puts it this way: "We really think it represents what people want...which is an urban boulevard at reduced speed in a parking-like setting."
That's his summary of the Rt. 198 - Scajaquada reconstruction project proposal after ten years of planning and more than 50 public meetings like the one Tuesday night at the Buffalo State Campus, according to the DOT.
They now have a final environmental impact statement on the $100 million dollar plus project to be forwarded to the Federal Highway Administration for partial funding.
DOT Officials say their revised plan has seven new traffic signal intersections, a narrowed median and bike lanes which were put in after they reviewed public comments. Of course some cultural and environmental advocates have been pushing for the complete redesign of the existing expressway.
Driscoll's response to that: "Some of the additional elements that people continue to suggest that they must have, we are unable to meet those...and we are also unable to gain support from Federal highway on that."
Some neighbors like Lou Haremski of the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition don't want to hear that.
"They have absolutely refused to engage in an urban planning concept...this is purely traffic," Haremski said.
But contrast that with the view of West Side resident Joe Maccagnano.
"This is not a benefit to any drivers at all. This is just for people who wanna ride their bikes, and walk and they have the whole park to do that already," Maccagnano said.
There are also concerns that the project is too limited in scope and that planners ignored the Humboldt neighborhood at the eastern end.
As Keith Wood puts it: "The residents are not receiving the services...why shouldn't they be upset. I'm upset that it should begin where 198 should begin."
And again there is the issue of commuter access between the 33 and 190 highways.
Driscoll says people will continue to utilize it or they will utilize other means in other places.
2 on Your Side asked: "Have you been hearing anything from the city about their concerns about increased traffic on Hertel or some of these other streets?"
Driscoll responded: "We have not and the data shows that it's been about a five percent push either way."
The 2015 accident that killed a young child in the adjacent Delaware Park as a driver on the 198 lost control obviously changed the speed limit. And it contributed to what was already a bit of a balancing act for the DOT.
If the Federal Highway Administration gives a green light to the DOT's plan, contracts will bid out in 2018 for work to begin on the reconstruction of the Route 198.