"Exactly, it would be easy to-."
"You're crazy man. There's no way that would ever get done."
"No, I'm telling you, it's an easy fix-."
"No, I'm telling you; it will never happen."
These are the kinds of discussions that typically occur between arm-chair urban planners. A topic will come up (for instance: any mid-century "improvement" to Buffalo infrastructure), and then the participants will duke it out in debate, citing studies they've read, demographic statistics, moral arguments, and finally if their logical arguments held no sway... yelling, until the other party acknowledges their Olmstedian genius.
It is seldom ever the case, however, that these kinds of plans can or ever will be enacted, but they are fun to talk about. Hypothetical projects without budgets usually are.
Currently plans are being developed to "downgrade" the Scajacuada to a parkway, meaning lower speeds, more aesthetic environments, and hopefully, a restored Olmsted Park. Currently, Assemblyman Sean Ryan is taking input from the public on the plans, and I would urge everyone to go and give their opinions, as well as push for the best possible parkway solution.
|The Completed Olmsted Parkway System in 1896|
|A sketch of Olmsted's vision for "The Park"|
|Arial Photograph of the Albright Knox and History Museum|
Prior to the construction of the Scajacuada Expressway
Even with this in mind, it may still come as a surprise that city planners would decide to run a highway through the middle of a gorgeous park. In 1962 however, the Scajacuada Expressway was completed, connecting the Kensington to the also recently-completed Interstate 190. The park design was sacrificed so that commuters could maintain a 50-MPH speed limit straight through the middle of neighborhoods, directly at the expense of one of Buffalo's greatest features.
|The current Elmwood exchange layout|
Unlike the portion of the 198 that bisects Forrest Lawn Cemetery and The Meadows, this section currently has very limited non-car functionality, with only one option for bikes, and only two pedestrian crossings. Even more pressing is the excessive use of ramps: in this quarter-mile stretch, there are six ramps to enter and exit the expressway (this total jumps to nine if you include the ramps on Delaware). Under the current redesigns, the most progressive plans only eliminate two ramps in the Elmwood exchange, though all eliminate the unnecessary bridge to exit north on Elmwood.
But is that progressive enough? Is that good enough to not only restore Olmsted's park, but to reestablish Delaware Park as one of the premier parks in the country?
I don't think so. Here is my vision (sorry for the poor rendering-- I'm just starting my education at Armchair Graphic Design School) for the new section:
Eliminate the entire section of the 198 through this portion of Delaware Park. Reroute traffic (now moving at 30 MPH along a boulevard) down Nottingham, where they can access the remainder of the 198 after passing through the Elmwood intersection near the Museum. It eliminates nearly all of those wasteful exchanges, still allows easy access to the remainder of the 198, and increases public space drastically. Currently the Scajacuada cuts off a huge chunk of green space along the creek; with this change, it not only gives access, but increases the space exponentially.
An even more progressive design would eliminate all portions of the 198 between Delaware and Elmwood. Based on this design, reincorporate the Delaware bridge into a park-only path (currently truncated), and have that connect all the way back to Lincoln Parkway for bike and pedestrians. Traffic would utilize a roundabout, then find alternate routes to reach the remainder of the 198: either traveling down the full length of Nottingham from Delaware, or, gasp, traveling down other city streets.
|The Armchair Planning School Design 2|
Won't the Department of Transportation have something to say about this, seeing as the road currently handles between 37,000 and 70,000 cars per day? I'm sure they will, but seeing as I-90, I-190, and the 33 already provide high speed travel, and Delaware Ave, Main Street, Niagara Street, and Filmore, Baily, Michigan already essentially operate as highways, is this section really that important for moving traffic?
But, you might ask, if you're going to cut out a huge chunk of the highway to fix the park, what's the point of having the Scajacuada at all?
Indeed, that might be the biggest question of all.
Written by Derek King, Architectural Historian at Preservation Studios