BUFFALO, NY -- NYSDOT announced Monday they have suspended plans to move forward with the Scajaquada Corridor project.
After a fatal accident in 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo instructed DOT to make the 198 safer and more park friendly, but today Regional Direction Frank Cirillo released this statement:
After an extensive effort to create a plan that transforms the Scajaquada Corridor, unfortunately, a consensus could not be reached with the many stakeholders involved. More than two-thirds of the most recent public comments received by NYSDOT were not in favor of the proposed Scajaquada Corridor project moving forward. As a result, NYSDOT will not move forward with the project in its current form.
He says that in the coming months, NYSDOT will "begin a fresh dialogue with stakeholders." The original plan had called for additional traffic signals, raised medians and more bicycle and pedestrian lanes, among other proposals.
But opponents of the project flooded the state with criticism during the public comment period, objecting to several aspects of the plan. For months, these critics have argued that the state's plan does not go far enough in addressing the concerns of the community. For example, they believe it is too narrow in scope and does not connect the park in a way that helps bicyclists or pedestrians.
Many neighborhood leaders immediately celebrated the news that NYSDOT has gone back to the drawing board, including Michael DeLuca, who is a board member with the Parkside Community Association and works with the Scajacuada Coalition.
"Buffalo has a long history of fighting for what they believe is right, be it Canalside or Peace Bridge or Outer Harbor. This is just another example of Buffalonians standing up and saying, 'you know what, we want something better and we demand it,'" DeLuca said. "And we obviously have been heard. And that really feels good."
At least a half-dozen activists expressed the same sentiments with 2 On Your Side in a series of phone conversations.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo), who opposed the project as well, said in a phone interview from Albany that the federal dollars allocated for NYSDOT's project will still be available in the future.
The state's plan would have cost $100 million.
"These long-term capital projects are safe now. Any changes in federal or state funding formula, they're a few years out," Ryan said. "The DOT remains committed to trying to get this project done."
Ryan said he's hopeful the agency will listen more closely to neighbors' concerns.
"It was clear the community did not like the proposal put forth by the DOT, so I applaud the DOT in putting the reset button on this plan," Ryan said.
State Senator Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes also released statements praising the DOT's decision to reconsider plans.
A DOT spokesperson in Buffalo declined an on-camera interview, but she said conversations will continue with stakeholders and the Federal Highway Administration in the coming months.