Buffalo awarded $55 million to build highway cap and tunnel and reconnect neighborhoods


New York Construction Report staff writer

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg this week announced $185 million in grant awards for 45 projects through the new reconnecting communities pilot program, a first-of-its-kind initiative to reconnect communities impacted by past transportation infrastructure decisions.

The City of Buffalo will receive $55.6 million to build a new highway cap and tunnel over the Kensington Expressway, a physical barrier that isolates residents on the city’s primarily Black east side. The cap will reconnect several east-west roads that the expressway severed, create greenspace, safer pedestrian crossings, and make it easier for residents to access community services and amenities like restaurants and cultural facilities.

The estimated cost of the project is about $1 billion to cap 4,100 feet of the Kensington Expressway to provide continuous greenspace and reestablish community character and cohesiveness. Community groups have advocated for covering the expressway and restoring elements of the historic Humboldt Parkway design since the late 1980s.

The new tunnel will reconnect several east-west roads that were severed and enhance east-west connections with safe crossing options. Humboldt Parkway would be reconstructed with Complete Streets design features. Construction of the highway in the 1960s required the demolition of more than 600 residential properties, the removal of a landscaped median and created a barrier to community connectivity.

Construction of the expressway left the primarily Black population within Buffalo confined to the East Side, isolated with low access to jobs, grocery stores, and banks.

The project is intended to attract new businesses, create equity, and add value to the community.

In addition, the project will invest in green spaces and parkland to improve the community
quality of life. Community engagement has been made possible through various community
groups and elected officials.

All funded projects aim to connect neighborhoods by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating transportation barriers. This first round of grants will fund construction and planning for community-led solutions, including capping interstates with parks, filling in sunken highways to reclaim the land for housing, converting inhospitable transportation facilities to tree-lined Complete Streets, and creating new crossings through public transportation, bridges, tunnels and trails. These projects will help revitalize communities, provide access to jobs and opportunity, and reduce pollution.

“Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” said U.S. Transportation Buttigieg. “We are proud to announce the first grantees of our Reconnecting Communities Program, which will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries and other essentials.”

The full list of Reconnecting Communities program awards can be viewed HERE.

Applications were prioritized from economically disadvantaged communities, especially those focused on equity and environmental justice, and that demonstrated strong community engagement and stewardship, and would catalyze shared prosperity in its development and job creation.

For more information on the Reconnecting Communities, including additional resources and information for interested applicants and stakeholders, click the link.


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