BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – When the state budget was passed in April, it included $1 billion for a project to redesign the Kensington Expressway. On Friday, supporters of the plan joined together on the steps of the Buffalo Museum of Science to celebrate.

“We’re going to do it this decade. We’re going to see shovels in the ground in the next couple of years,” vowed Senator Tim Kennedy, the lawmaker from Buffalo who chairs the Senate’s Transportation Committee. “I can’t wait to see that day happen.”

An Environmental Impact Study for the project has been ongoing since January. The New York State Department of Transportation is planning to hold a public scoping meeting in late spring or early summer to share visual concepts for the project.

On Friday, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who serves as the Assembly Majority Leader, laid out her vision for phase one of the project, which would cover the highway from East Ferry St. nearly to Best St.

“It’s a simple covering up,” Peoples-Stokes said. “There will still be traffic that will flow under the bottom. But there will be another tree-lined street much like (Frederick Law) Olmstead designed years ago which will be above ground.”

The depressed section of the Kensington, also known locally as “The 33”, was dug in decades ago, in the 1950s. That action physically divided many east-west streets on Buffalo’s East Side. In the first phase, advocates want to reconnect streets spanning Buffalo’s MLK Park and Kingsley neighborhoods.

“It has cut off traffic to our main business strips like Fillmore Ave. and Jefferson Ave. But just like Hertel Ave. and Elmwood Ave. you need most of the community surrounding it to support it”, explained Stephanie Jeter, the president of the Restore our Community Coalition. “When you cut off traffic to those two major streets, those business strips all but died.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown referred to Jeter as the driving force behind the plans. Jeter said she was ecstatic, over the moon, and thankful to know that some money for the project is secure.

“You’ll see the restoration of Mr. Olmstead’s dream for a park system in which a city is build around. That’s what you’ll see,” she said of her vision for the result.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2017. See more of his work here.