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Engineers said Tuesday it is feasible to build tunnels under the Buffalo River linking downtown with Fuhrmann Boulevard, and Mayor Griffin said he wants to start the ambitious project in a year.

"Now is the time and place, and this is the best alternative we have," the mayor said. "This tunnel would mean more progress for the city."

The mayor's comments came during a press conference at which the results of a $60,000 study were released by Hayden/Wegman Consulting Engineers.

Engineers said the rock under the river is suitable for the project, and it could be built for between $65 million and $80 million. A second phase of the project could include demolition of the Skyway Bridge at a cost of up to $10 million.

The mayor said he preferred building a tunnel rather than a $55 million bridge because a tunnel could ultimately free 3.4 acres of downtown land for development.

The two tunnels, which would be built near the Erie Basin Marina, would initially link Fuhrmann with downtown at Church Street.

The mayor said he will approach the federal, state and county governments for most of the money needed for the tunnel project. The city portion would be paid for by issuing bonds, he said.

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