As if increased traffic on Peace Bridge between Buffalo, N.Y., and Fort Erie, Ontario, isn’t enough, a long-standing debate on whether to handle that traffic with one bridge or two is coming to a head.
The authority that governs the U.S.-Canada crossing is proposing a new bridge plan as a compromise, but some protestors aren’t too receptive, according to Associated Press reports.
The Peace Bridge Authority wants to build a second three-lane bridge next to the existing one and has introduced a more attractive design with high hopes that it will appeal to those who want to replace the bridge with a single, six-lane span.
While authority officials consider the new design a "step in the right direction," others contend it does not offer the advantages of a new concrete structure. The new design would still have to depend on the existing bridge, which is 73 years old, to carry half the traffic.
The bridge debate and consequent lawsuits haven’t exactly helped efforts to deal with the increasing truck traffic at the crossing. The authority said Peace Bridge is often crossed by 6,000 trucks a day and has far over-reached its capacity. The Ontario Trucking Association predicts that commercial traffic between the United States and Canada will double within five years.
In April, a state Supreme Court ruled the authority must complete an environmental review that assesses the impact of both a new bridge and the U.S. plaza. The authority says the ruling could set the bridge construction back at least three to four years and intends to file an appeal, but authority critics estimate the environmental work could be finished in a year.
Lawsuits filed by the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the Episcopal Church Home and the City of Buffalo fueled the ruling, contending the authority's previous environmental review was flawed. The authority had prepared a separate assessment for a new bridge while working on an environmental impact statement for the plaza and is currently seeking a settlement with those who filed the lawsuits.