Former County Executive Joel Giambra launched a petition earlier this week calling on New York State’s Department of Transportation to restore the Scajaquada Expressway’s 50 mph speed limit — and Mayor Byron Brown is joining his calls on the DOT to do so swiftly.
In fewer than 48 hours, the petition has garnered nearly 7,000 signatures.
“Until the State’s Department of Transportation breaks ground on its long-stalled plan to replace the Scajaquada Expressway with an at-grade boulevard, the speed limit should be restored to 50 miles per hour,” Giambra’s petition states. “The current limit of 30 mph was an unnecessary knee-jerk reaction that has become maddening to motorists and residents alike.”
The DOT once planned to spend $140 million to reconstruct the 3.8-mile roadway, which cuts through the city’s flagship public park space. Last year, the State agency abandoned those plans after a long design process that failed to achieve consensus with community stakeholders, like the Olmstead Parks Conservancy and the Parkside Neighborhood Association.
“Since any participatory design process will take several years to achieve community consensus, allow motorists to drive 50 mph on the expressway that exists today,” he argues.
Giambra doesn’t take a position on what the final design should look like, explaining that, as a matter of principle, he believes in participatory planning processes that are driven by neighborhood residents. He believes the dialogue should continue and encourages urban planners to put “all their ideas on the table.”
Last year DOT threatened urban planning activists. They insisted that funding for the project would be diverted to other parts of the State if design critics refused to acquiesce to a limited and unimpressive design concept for the project. Local activists demanded higher quality design objectives.
Now, in light of Giambra’s petition, the DOT is affirming its commitment to the project and is even claiming that it is willing to reengage with the community in a more meaningful participatory planning process.
That announcement was a surprise to those who follow the Scajaquada project, but the DOT did not release any details on its timeline for reengaging with the community, or what that process would look like.