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Biden's infrastructure deadline comes and goes without agreement

Angelica Morrison / WBFO News
Morning rush hour traffic along the Kensington Expressway could be roofed over under one plan to reconnect the surrounding neighborhood.

Tens of millions of dollars are expected to come to Western New York from the Biden Administration's giant infrastructure proposal now before Congress. But with so many local projects in need, which should take priority?

Would you like Buffalo's Skyway torn down and replaced by alternate roads? Would you like the future of the Scajaquada finally settled? Would you like the Kensington Expressway removed or at least covered over? Would you like to ride the Metro Rail out to North Amherst? All it takes is money, lots and lots of money.

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes supports the East Side's Kensington as a priority.

Rep. Brian Higgins and state Sen. Tim Kennedy, also Democrats, both agree doing something about the Kensington to re-connect communities severed when the historic Humboldt Parkway of Frederick Law Olmsted was replaced by the current road in a deep trench, but say there are other priorities as well.

Kennedy told a news conference Monday, if everyone speaks with the same voice, it will all happen.

"What we are saying is that is absolutely the case. We agree with the majority leader," said Kennedy. "However, we also recognize there are other priority projects that need to be dealt with at the same time and that's why we are fighting to get as many of these infrastructure dollars into our community as possible."

Credit Empire State Development
There has been lots of talk about alternatives for the Skyway, like this rendering for combined vehicle and rail traffic.

Kennedy and Higgins are now backing away from an expected state Department of Transportation plan for the removal of the Skyway and what to do with its 40,000 daily commuters. The two lawmakers said the DOT's plan is a failure and a pending DOT Environmental Impact Statement will be put on hold until the state addresses the needs of the community.

Theywould like to see a lot of replacement routes, including ending the Thruway tolls as far as Hamburg.

"The congressman and I are looking at removing the Hamburg toll barriers to basically eradicate a commuter toll that has been in place for decades, enhance the on and off ramps at various stages along the Thruway, put in place a parkway with park-like setting, with bicycle and pedestrian access to the waterfront," Kennedy said.

There are also different points of view in different segments of the community about these projects, just as there are about the Biden Administration's infrastructure bill in Congress. The White House-imposed deadline for a deal was Monday, but it came and went without a vote.

WBFO's Mark Wozniak contributed to this story.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.