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Peace Bridge: Part 3: Jim Kane asks is it Our Front Door…or a Loading Dock?

Jim Kane of the Ambassador Niagara Signature Bridge Group speaks directly to BRO readers here today. But first, let’s get the names straight. Contrary to what other media lend false acronym to, there is no such thing as the Peace Bridge Authority (PBA). The Peace Bridge is just that, a bridge, and it comes under the authority of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority covering waterfront crossings—hence, the PBA part.
If there are bridges over our borders, they should be represented by the authority of the people, appointed or otherwise, representing all bridge interests and all bridge options. We seem to be starting off wrong when all the bridge issues over a waterway are decided by one bridge group of what should be a larger representative authority. We’re going to fully address the issues between the Ambassador Niagara Signature Bridge Group and the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority’s (PBA) via the Peace Bridge Group (henceforward the PBG). It is important and helpful to hear from both sides–and both side are welcome to voice right here.
Jim Kane spent a large part of his career working with the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and in recent years represents the Ambassador group as their WNY regional director. Here are Mr. Kane’s comments direct to BRO readers in regard to the PBA and the PBG:
The Peace Bridge must be our front door—not our loading dock
by James B. Kane, Regional Director, Ambassador Niagara Bridge Group.
(October 30th, 2007) Maximizing the border crossing between Buffalo and Fort Erie for the benefit of all is essential to the economic well-being and the environmental health of our community.
I represent the Ambassador Niagara Signature Bridge Group. We are a private-sector corporation in the international bridge operation business and over the past six years we have been diligently working to put together the necessary components to present an alternative Niagara River crossing plan to the community. We stand prepared to finance and build a bridge and bridge system to move trucks and cars between Fort Erie and the City of Buffalo.
As representatives of private enterprise, we request the opportunity to compete and say that we can do better than the project put forth by the Buffalo & Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (PBA). Although the current environmental review is funded by taxpayer dollars for the public benefit — the PBA and Peace Bridge Group PBG administers the review process and it supports consideration of only one plan – its own.
We ask that the environmental review of this project not be limited solely to the crossing which the Public Bridge Authority controls and advocates. For this community to properly consider and come to a consensus on a bridge crossing — the community must be made fully aware of the benefits of truck cargo crossing in an appropriate location and the burdens that truck traffic brings to the community when freight trucks are improperly channeled.
The benefit of an integrated, well-coordinated, unified “system of bridges” that separates commercial from residential traffic patterns has not been explored by the PBA/PBG. On an everyday level, the first concern to the average citizen is delay when trying to cross the bridge because of congested truck traffic. This same congestion clogs the economic artery of tourism. This first concern must be addressed by asking the question: “What is the impact of banning trucks from the Peace Bridge?” This is a question the PBA/PBG review should answer — it does not.
In August 2003, Mr. Bruce Campbell of the PBA/PBG, in response to a question asking what local benefits come from commercial traffic, advised that they were “studying that.” According to their final scoping document, the primary purpose of this project is to “Eliminate the bottleneck in the existing international transportation system created by the inadequate vehicular capacity of the Peace Bridge and inefficiencies in the plaza configuration, traffic flow patterns and roadway network on the U.S. side of the Peace Bridge.”
Note well the absence of local benefit. Why? Under the Public Bridge Authority plan there is no local benefit. Under the PBA/PBG, there are no plans for the building of a transshipment facility, intermodal transportation or trucking facility. It is no coincidence that secondary businesses have never sprung up around the Peace Bridge. While it is the right place for a bridge serving residents and tourists — it is the wrong place for inter-modal facilities accommodating long-haul freight driven by truck or train.
Conceived as a non-profit organization, the PBA/PBG now seeks your consent to permanently convert the Peace Bridge to a truck bridge that does “the least harm possible” to our community.
In its new mission statement, the PBA/PBG acknowledges that it offers no local benefit. Among the 8 “Primary Goals and Objectives” found in the scoping document none addresses benefiting or improving the community. Number 7 is listed as:
“Seek to avoid, minimize or mitigate adverse social impacts, adverse economic impacts and adverse environmental impacts.”
Again, the Public Bridge Authority acknowledges it must harm local economic and environmental well-being beyond the borders of its plaza to serve larger economic interests. It does not seek to present a plan that benefits the local community. It does not apologize — rather it shrugs and says that furthering international transportation interests requires local harm.
Expansion into our local parks and neighborhoods has always met with controversy. Unplanned trade facilitation and piecework expansion of the Peace Bridge plaza has diminished our ability to aid industry or recover jobs that fled this region years ago. We have not been able to capitalize on trade because we do not have the space, configuration or desire to locate necessary industries at the current crossing. For good reason, the Peace Bridge crossing is one of the premier historical points in our City, where the once pristine Olmsted Front Park overlooks Lake Erie at the source of the mighty Niagara River.
The public is told a scope of review has been undertaken by the PBA/PBG and it has determined the final solution to the truck trade bottleneck is at its favored site. The PBA/PBG asks you to ignore other solutions; viable alternatives that would provide local economic and environmental benefits. These alternatives, of course, would reduce and eventually eliminate the PBA’s truck revenue.
One solution the PBA/PBG asks you to ignore is to ban commercial trucks from the Peace Bridge and send them to the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge.
Another is the plan to build a truck bridge at the Bridgeburg-Black Rock (International Railway Bridge) corridor, a location that allows for commercial development; the revitalization of brownfields; that allows for a benefit locally from all of these millions of dollars of goods crossing our border each day; one that permits the development of a state-of-the-art facility for North American freight processing and intermodal distribution. A plan that does not destroy parks; does not require the condemnation of hundreds of homes and businesses and does not require $310 Million tax dollars for the bridge facility and plazas or any type of government guarantees.
It was said not too long ago with regard to $700 Million Dollars a week of commercial trade crossing through our midst that living next to Fort Knox does not make you rich. Think about it, a “St. Lawrence Seaway for trucks” at Porter Avenue. The impact of this golden river of goods upon Buffalo is only felt when the trucks idle onto the Bridge and the prevailing westerly winds blow the particulate matters and air pollutants across our City. Finally, we see the taillights of those trucks as they speed south to follow the jobs and industry that left here years before. How many trucks do you see stopping in the City of Buffalo to visit our shops, our restaurants, and our cultural events?
By the time those trucks cross that bridge, they want one thing – to be on their way. There is no trade business developed around the bridge, nor will there be any development at this location. Local trade benefits from the Peace Bridge are non-existent — while the burdens are great.
As part of a unified gateway system however, the Peace Bridge would provide entry for residents and tourists while the proposed International Trade Bridge unites the billion dollar supply line of goods and materials and pumps the goods across the Niagara River for distribution throughout North America and around the world.
The PBA/PBG scoping document advises that tourism “contributes significantly to the volume of traffic on the Peace Bridge. It is reported to be the largest and fastest growing industry in the world and the key to economic growth in the Niagara region.”[1] To serve that function of an economic engine of tourism, the Peace Bridge must be our
front door — not our loading dock.
The purpose of any review is to determine the preferred alternatives. Why then does the obvious alternative of the Peace Bridge returning to its historic purpose as a passenger bridge not appear anywhere in the PBA/PBG’s environmental impact statement? That act alone would alleviate 90% of the concerns of this community because it immediately allows safer and faster passage of passenger cars and facilitates the interaction of business and pleasure trips across the border — stimulating and promoting what the Public Bridge Authority itself refers to as the “key to economic growth in the Niagara region”: tourism.
Please ask yourself these questions:
Number 1: How much money does the City of Buffalo receive directly from the current operation of the Peace Bridge?
Number 2: How much revenue could the City of Buffalo realize if we were able to increase tourism by even 10 or 15%?
Number 3: What is the biggest concern of people regarding the congestion at the Bridge? Is it (a) commercial traffic, or (b) the fact that commercial traffic congests and blocks tourism and passenger cars?
Number 4: What is the economic benefit of the proposed increase in commercial traffic to the City of Buffalo? Note: Not the economic value of the goods crossing the border, not the economic benefit to the State of New York or Province of Ontario. What is the economic benefit to the City of Buffalo?
If you cannot answer these questions, then you must ask that they be studied in a serious scoping document so that you may have the information you need to make an informed and appropriate choice when it comes time to the next milestone — approval of a specific project, plaza and corridor crossing for commercial freight.
[1]Page 4, Scoping Document.

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