U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is highlighting plans in Western New York to cover part of the Kensington Expressway and reconnect the communities it divides.
Buttigieg visited Buffalo Friday and met with community members who have been pushing the project for years.
The state and federal government are funding the project including a $55 million federal grant announced last month through the Reconnect Communities Program.
Buttigieg pointed out the Kensington project is the largest of 45 around the country in various stages of progress.
The money is part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed by President Biden.
U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Gov. Kathy Hochul, Rep. Brian Higgins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown were among those who joined the secretary at the podium.
"Buffalo neighborhoods have been torn apart by the Kensington Expressway for decades, and this $55 million investment from the Reconnecting Communities Program will help jumpstart the effort to reconnect the Humboldt Parkway community. This funding will play a key role in laying the foundation for a more equitable future here in Buffalo, which is why I was excited to bring Transportation Secretary Buttigieg to Buffalo and show him first hand exactly how the investment will help bridge divides and reunite the community,” said Sen. Schumer. “Our infrastructure should connect, not divide our communities – That’s why I fought so hard to create and fund the Reconnecting Communities program, and why I later personally called Transportation Secretary Buttigieg to secure this major federal funding. The transformation of the divisive Kensington Expressway will be a game changer for Buffalo and will serve as a model for equity across the nation."
Prior to that, they took part in a panel with community members who told him what the area used to look like and how the highway split the neighborhood and segregated the city.
The Kensington Expressway project will transform the current expressway into a six-lane tunnel extending from under Dodge Street to Sydney Street. Above ground, Humboldt Parkway would be redesigned not just for cars but for pedestrians and bicyclists with traffic-calming measures, crosswalks, bicycle lanes and pedestrian and bicycle signals. It would also include a tree-lined walkable linear park in the median with Victorian gardens, sidewalks, and benches, connecting it with the adjacent Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
The governor committed up to $1 billion for the project in last year's budget.