Buffalo News

"Residents don't want town as Peace Bridge option"
News Northtowns Bureau

Grand Island residents do not want the town to be on a favored list of alternative Peace Bridge sites, and they plan to tell the Peace Bridge Authority to find someplace else to build.

The general public has generated about 30 Peace Bridge alternatives - ranging in cost from $300 million to $1.3 billion, Town Supervisor Peter A. McMahon said.

About a dozen proposals involve keeping the bridge where it is now.

Also under consideration are a Town of Tonawanda site that would link the Queen Elizabeth Way in Ontario with the Niagara Thruway and a site somewhere in Niagara Falls and points north, McMahon said.

But the three projects on the list that directly affect Grand Island and Strawberry Island were the attention-getters during a meeting Tuesday in which about 75 residents of Grand Island met in Town Hall for the second time in as many months to review the proposals.

The three Grand Island options call for building a new Niagara River crossing just south of Grand Island. All commercial truck processing would be moved from the Peace Bridge to the new crossing, with the current bridge servicing automobiles and buses only. Also, a new expressway would be built to link the QEW to Interstate 190.

None of the Grand Island options sat well with residents Tuesday night.

"We must stop those plans now," said Mary Beth Bush. who helped organize a group of neighbors who will attend a Dec. 7 meeting of the Peace Bridge Authority on the 30 suggestions. "We must stand together to protect and preserve our neighborhood."

"They need to know we don't want it," said East River Road resident Paul G. Leuchner.

Neighbors who attended the meeting cited increased traffic on the island's south end of I-190 if an interchange plaza were added.

Also, traffic congestion could drastically reduce emergency response routes and times, they said, and the Grand Island proposals would isolate the southern tip of the island, particularly Beaver Island and Ferry Village.

Environmental concerns also were prominent, especially regarding Strawberry Island.

"It's the most sensitive spot in the Niagara River," McMahon said. "Strawberry Island is spawning grounds for the sport fishing industry. It's a nesting place for blue herons and egrets, and it's an important area for migratory birds."

In addition to Grand Island residents, neighbors in all of the communities that may be affected should pay closer attention to the alternative bridge process, the residents were told.

"This issue is a sleeper," Erie County Legislator Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore, said during Tuesday's meeting. "People don't know about it, but people really need to start thinking about it and paying attention to the issue."

The next step is a public meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 7 at WNED. The purpose is to explain the benefits and disadvantages of each of the 30 suggestions and to ask participants of the meeting to vote on their top five choices, McMahon said.

Those choices then will be sent to the Peace Bridge Authority to decide which sites to continue studying.