BUFFALO, N.Y. — Things haven't been going smoothly lately with regards to plans to cover part of Buffalo's Kensington Expressway, creating a tunnel roughly three-fourths of a mile with green space above.
First, an organized group of citizens did its own analysis of public comments submitted to the Department of Transportation, calling into question whether a majority of people truly are in favor of the project. Then, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told The Buffalo News Editorial Board an alternative plan to remove the Kensington and restore the original parkway would result in massive cost increases and decades-long delays to the project, currently estimated to cost roughly $1 billion.
Her office later admitted the surprising comments were "conjecture." However, Gov. Kathy Hochul seemed unconcerned about a little bad press and opposition when she discussed the project in Buffalo Friday.
Hochul said it has had momentum, public and elected official support since well before she became governor.
"Every project I've ever seen been introduced in Buffalo, there are always naysayers. I know that. It's in the DNA of some people to just say no,” Hochul said. “They don't like change."
The project also has champions in state Senate Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kennedy and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, both from Buffalo. Hochul said community leaders have pushed for changes for roughly three decades.
"I'm trying to step forward and heal a community that was divided only because people wanted an expedient way to leave the city and get out to the suburbs without caring about the community they severed the artery from, and I want to rebuild this community and help them," said Hochul.
The project needs approval from the Federal Highway Administration before it moves forward. That is expected and officials said construction could begin this year.