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New York Governor Announces Advancement of Kensington Expressway Project to Reconnect East Buffalo Communities

BUFFALO, NY — Governor Kathy Hochul announces a major milestone in the Kensington Expressway Project, which will reconnect neighborhoods within East Buffalo that have been divided for generations, while providing green space and a new vibrancy to the community. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact,” a key development that signals the end of the formal environmental assessment process and clears the way for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to advance to the final design stages and begin construction by the fall of 2024.

Additionally, at the direction of Hochul, NYSDOT will commence a study this year on additional potential enhancements to further reconnect the community, all the way up to the Scajaquada Expressway and Delaware Park, including a new vision for a reimagined Humboldt Parkway. Building on the hundreds of public engagements ahead of this project, NYSDOT will continue to engage with community members and listen to their concerns to ensure the best outcome for the corridor and the residents who call it home.

“From the very beginning, the Kensington Expressway Project has been a community-driven effort to restore the green space and quality of life wrongfully taken from East Buffalo with the highway’s initial construction,” Hochul said. “[This] decision by the Federal Highway Administration allows us to move ahead on this transformational project to right the wrongs of the past and start construction later this year. But we are not done yet and will continue to rely on the project’s most important architects — local community members — to share their vision and partner with us as we study opportunities to reconnect the East Buffalo community in a way that makes residents proud.”

The FHWA issuance of a “Finding of No Significant Impact” comes after NYSDOT undertook a detailed Environmental Assessment that extensively studied the social, economic, and environmental effects of the project; and outlined measures to mitigate any adverse effects. NYSDOT also conducted extensive public outreach on the Kensington Project, attending more than 70 meetings or public events in the affected communities, and remains committed to engaging the public throughout the final design and construction of the project.

“The Kensington Expressway project is one that the East Buffalo community has talked about for decades, and under Governor Hochul’s leadership, the vision articulated by the residents of East Buffalo, is now a reality," NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said. "The stars are aligned for this project, and there will never be a better opportunity to start transforming the landscape of East Buffalo than at this very moment. This is a major milestone for a game-changing project — one that would not have been possible without continued input and support received from committed local residents and stakeholders in East Buffalo. The construction of the original Kensington Expressway carved a deep wound in the fabric of East Buffalo, and now the healing process can officially begin.”

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Constructed during the 1950s and 1960s, the Kensington Expressway replaced what had been a tree-lined boulevard — the historic Humboldt Parkway designed by Frederick Law Olmsted — with a below-grade highway that cut through the heart of the surrounding neighborhoods in East Buffalo. To right the wrongs of this historical injustice and its long-lasting impact, Hochul has set aside $1 billion for the project, which includes providing new green space to reconnect the community.

The Biden-Harris administration also provided $55.59 million for the project through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, a first-of-its-kind initiative established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.

Proposed project highlights include:

  • Replacement of the below-grade expressway with a 4,150-foot-long, six-lane tunnel between Dodge Street and Sidney Street
  • Creation of a 90-foot-wide, tree-lined median on top of the tunnel, providing approximately 11 acres of new, publicly accessible green space
  • Reconstruction of Humboldt Parkway while implementing Complete Street roadway design features
  • Rehabilitation of 9 miles of local streets, including resurfacing and replacement of sidewalks, curbs, driveway aprons, lighting, signals, and new tree plantings as needed
  • Replacement of Best Street Bridge and creation of a roundabout at the Best Street interchange
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