By Matthew Ricchiazzi:
It makes no sense to route one of the busiest international trucking corridors through the most densely populated part of our region, which only exacerbates public health impacts of diesel exhaust. Routing the trucks around rather than though the heart of our city will allow us to transform our waterfront, heal our downtown, and usher in an era of urban revitalization that we’ve never seen before.
At this juncture in the arch of our history, we should reevaluate our infrastructure to suit the city’s emerging lifestyle. Our aim – above all else – should be to make our neighborhoods more livable and our city even more beautiful.
We should posture our highways for commuters to get downtown relatively quickly, but not to the extent that our waterfront is diminished or our downtown is decimated with swooping on ramps and wide highways that take like a chainsaw to the urban fabric. While highways should take people to downtown, they should not take people through downtown.
Building massive trucking infrastructure at the Peace Bridge would double down on idiocy. It would mean that we will never be able to right size the I-190 into a waterfront boulevard, and our waterfront will evolve into little more than truck stop. That’s unacceptable – and despite what the politicians will tell you – it’s not good economic development.
Instead we should process trucks in an industrial area, where the impacts of diesel exhaust can be mitigated more thoroughly without immediately impacting residents.
The Dunlop plant at the foot of Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda is a sprawling but dated tire manufacturing facility located adjacent to the I-190 as it approaches the I-290. Dunlop is a subsidiary of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, based in Akron.
In exchange for the property, New York State should offer a package of incentives that allow the firm to build the most competitively scaled tire production facility, elsewhere on River Road, posturing the firm for export driven growth. Incentives might include private equity capital from the New York Pension Fund, a cash transaction for the old plant, or some other enabling transaction. (We need a comprehensive regional or state industrial development policy that addresses this process of manufacturing modernization – but that’s a topic for another day.)
Will it cost more money? Sure. A lot more.
The site would be suitable for the type of sprawling commercial complex that the Peace Bridge Authority has been pushing. There would be space for expansive inspection facilities, a Duty Free Supercenter, gasoline refueling stations, large surface parking lots, and wide onramps that link into the Interstate system.
But the more it costs to construct, the larger the initial local economic impact relating to construction contracting and jobs. In the context of a public private infrastructure project, international trucking tolls should pay for initial construction costs over time – not taxpayers.
Matthew Ricchiazzi holds an MBA in Finance and Private Equity, and a BS in Urban Planning, both from Cornell University. He founded Change Buffalo PAC to promote issues of new urbanism in Western New York. He can be reached atchangebuffalo.org.