Council faces decision on narrowing bridge alternatives down to 3 options
News Staff Reporter

Narrowing the alternatives for the next phase of the Peace Bridge expansion study will be the first - and perhaps most difficult - major decision the City of Buffalo will be asked to make as a partner with the Town of Fort Erie, Ont., and the Peace Bridge Authority, bridge and city officials said Monday.

But if city officials can make the decision by next month, the Peace Bridge Authority's consultants said they can present a final proposed bridge site and design by April.

"I think this is one of the most difficult decisions because we had the corridor issue and a broad range of concepts and suggestions," said Vincent P. "Jake" Lamb, the authority's director for the binational review.

The authority has asked City Hall to ratify a scoping document that narrows alternatives for further study to three:

Staying at the current Peace Bridge location and enlarging the U.S. plaza.

Staying at the location and relocating the plaza to the north to vacate part of the current plaza for park use.

Doing nothing.

"I've been saying all along that do nothing is not acceptable," said Niagara Council Member Dominic J. Bonifacio, whose district includes the Peace Bridge neighborhood.

Still, "it's seriously a hard vote," he said.

Relocating the plaza to the north would mean dislodging homeowners and renters. Authority officials have said fewer than 100 residences could be affected by eminent domain - the power to acquire property from reluctant sellers through condemnation.

"I think it's hard anytime you have a document that's going to mean moving people and relocating people," Bonifacio said.

A Detroit company offering to build a crossing for trucks near the International Railroad Bridge corridor about a mile north of the Peace Bridge - but without providing any details so far - has added more questions to the debate.

That idea appeals to some Peace Bridge neighbors worried about noise and air pollution.

Consultants have advised against further consideration of building a span just south of Grand Island with a plaza in the Town of Tonawanda. They also have suggested eliminating the International Railroad Bridge corridor.