(Watch Pete Buttigieg’s appearance in Buffalo in the video player above)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, along with several other New York State officials, spoke in Buffalo on Friday in celebration of the $55 million grant to cap parts of Route 33, reconnecting the East Side of Buffalo with the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood.

The grant was made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It will be used to cap about 4,100 feet of the expressway to “provide continuous greenspace and reestablish community character and cohesiveness,” reconnecting roads severed by Rt. 33’s construction.

In February, it was announced that the project would create a six-lane tunnel extending from under Dodge Street to Sydney Street. Humboldt Parkway is set to be redesigned for cars, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, with measures to calm traffic, crosswalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian and bicycle signals. The plan will also include a tree-lined walkable linear park in the median with Victorian gardens, sidewalks, and benches, connecting it with Martin Luther King Jr. Park.

“We can’t ignore the reality that this highway left the community more segregated and more isolated from the social and economic life of the rest of the city,” Buttigieg said of the Kensington Expressway, which divides neighborhoods on Buffalo’s East Side. “No one here today is responsible for creating that situation in the first place, but all of us are responsible for what we do in our time to repair, and that is why we’re here today.”

Officials also touted a provision of the infrastructure law that allows recipients of federal funding for projects like the reconstruction of the Kensington Expressway to require the hiring of local workers.  

The conference took place at the Buffalo Museum of Science. Buttigieg, who visited Buffalo for the first time, was joined by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Brian Higgins and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

While in Buffalo, Buttigieg is scheduled to meet with community members and leaders who have been advocating for the project since the late 1980s.

“This is a proud day for all of us,” Stephanie Barber Jeter, an East Side community member, said at the conference. “I want young people to know: Nothing happens quickly. It takes time. You’ll get frustrated, mad, sometimes very glad, but on a day like this, you’re awfully proud of the fact that your work has not gone unlooked at.”

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Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.