Highway noise kills. Researchers in the U.S. and European Union (EU) have known this for decades. The New York Times reported this year that "noise could take years off your life." Hypertension, stroke, and heart attacks are just some of the increased risks. And who is at most risk? "poor people and communities of color are more likely to experience excessive noise exposure because they often have fewer housing choices and are more likely to live near high-traffic roads." Studies beginning in the 1990s showed that 90% of the tens of thousands of annual deaths in the EU caused by noise were due to highways. That led directly to laws limiting the amount of noise engines, tires, road surfaces and vehicle speed could emit.
So why is the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) reconstructing perhaps the most destructive road in western New York? (we'll have to cover the catastrophic social and economic damage to downtown Buffalo, Lower East Side, and the Fruit Belt later) People across the region have been urging the tearing down the Kensington and the Thruway viaduct that wraps around downtown for decades, to reverse the expressway's devastating effects. Rather than deconstructing the expressways and playing a role in making people's lives better, the DOT is engaged in a $1 billion reconstruction project for 10 blocks of the five miles the expressway tears through the city. That is $100,000,000 per block, much of it for greenwash—a tunnel with a green roof where an open trench has existed since the early 1970s. The speed of the cars, the volume of the cars, the pollution of the cars, the danger of the cars, the economic and social devastation, will remain the same. That is explicitly stated by DOT: No alternative will be considered that doesn't move at least the same number of cars at at least the same speed.
Moving more cars, faster, has been DOT's purpose from inception. Expressway harm reduction? Full environmental review? Don't make me laugh. Restore Humboldt Parkway? Convert the infamous "Section One" of the Kensington (from roughly Michigan Avenue to Riley street just north of MLK Park)? Widen sidewalks? Build protected bike paths? Reconnect the Fruit Belt and the Lower West Side? Remove the Elm-Oak flyovers and rebuild the four blocks of housing that used to connect the Fruit Belt and North Oak neighborhoods to downtown? Make the the spokes of Genesee, Sycamore, Broadway, William, Clinton, Swan, and Seneca have priority accessing downtown over the Elm-Oak arterial, which cuts off downtown from the East Side? Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, and NOPE.
Bottom line: the present project to reconstruct the 10-block portion of the Kensington must be opposed and stopped, and a new project initiated that has a full vetting through a proper environmental review process. That begins with a scope that takes in, at minimum, the full length of the Elm-Oak arterial and the Kensington's sections one and two, the interchange with the Scajacquada Expressway.
What to do? IMMEDIATELY contact the Governor Kathy Hochul and your state Assembly and Senate representatives. And please consider a donation to The Campaign for Buffalo. This is a fight our grandchildren will thank us for!