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Opinion: Build the Bridge and Then Another, Ditch the Plaza

Reader submission by Matthew Ricchiazzi
As the Peace Bridge proposal moves forward–with plans to demolish a West Side neighborhood, further decimating our City’s urban fabric–I’d like to bring the possibility of a supplementary approach to the broader aim of improving our region’s border crossings to facilitate and strengthen economic linkage with Southern Ontario.
 
The Peace Bridge’s Westside location, while a sensible and necessary border crossing for passenger vehicles, would be an inappropriate host for the intrusive international customs inspection and trucking facilities that have been proposed.  This location is inhospitable to trucking traffic patterns–rooting international freight traffic through the most densely populated sections of our region.
 
While continuing to pursue the process underway to construct a companion signature span, we should also arrange for the privately financed construction of a “cargo-truck crossing” between Grand Island and Fort Erie.  Pursuing both projects simultaneously has a number of advantages:
 
– Plenty of land is available in Grand Island and Fort Erie that would be far more hospitable to expansive truck inspection and customs facilities, rendering an expanded Peace Bridge Plaza (and the accompanied demolition of the Columbus Park neighborhood) unnecessary, as the Peace Bridge would serve primarily–if not solely–passenger vehicles.
– Solely serving passenger vehicles would allow for reducing the footprint of the current customs plaza, similar in scale to the Rainbow Bridge customs plaza (which enjoys a scale and scope appropriate for the Westside location), allowing for much of the restoration of Olmsted’s original plan for Front Park.
 
– International trucking patterns would be re-routed around the City of Buffalo, improving neighborhood quality of life (including better air quality, reduced traffic congestion, and easing noise pollution).
 
– The potential for toll revenues would allow for relatively easy private sector financing of the project, which would make for an expedited process and would not require additional taxpayer expenditures.
 
– Rerouting regional trucking traffic outside of the City would make the eventual removal of the I-190 (and the reclamation of our waterfront) plausible.
 
I urge a regional perspective in furthering the broader aim of improving and strengthening our economic linkage with Southern Ontario–which must not be delayed or deferred, rather expedited and enhanced. 
 
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