BUFFALO, NY (AP) More than six years after construction was to have begun on a new Peace Bridge to Canada, a U.S.-Canadian panel has settled on a design.
But construction of the bridge needed to improve the flow of commercial traffic at one of the busiest northern border crossings is still years away.
The United States and Canada have yet to agree on a shared-border management plan that would move most U.S. customs inspectors to the Canadian side of the bridge. Nor have environmental concerns been addressed.
Nevertheless, the announcement late Dec. 1 that a 32-member design-selection jury had agreed on a bridge blueprint was hailed as a major step forward.
Original plans called for construction of a “twin” of the existing utilitarian bridge to begin in 1999. Those plans were scrapped after an uproar and subsequent legal action from public officials and community groups who rallied for a grander “signature” bridge.
The two-tower, Christian Menn design approved Dec. 1 frames the existing 78-year-old bridge, which will remain in use, while creating an elegant but simple new landmark, said Robert Shibley, co-chairman of the jury of 16 Americans and 16 Canadians.
The bridge, he said, would “create a terrific landmark statement about arrival to the Niagara Frontier, down the Niagara River, and arrival to western New York from Canada. We’ve got the best of the Peace Bridge and the best of the landmark statements that have been advocated by … the public.”
The design included two needle-shaped towers that straddle the roadway and rise 567 ft. to the sky with cables running from tower to roadway.
The jury’s recommendation, chosen from among 33 nominated designs, will be sent for approval to a panel composed of officials from the Peace Bridge Authority, Buffalo and town of Fort Erie, in two or three weeks, Rienas said.
But the final design, including the structure of the plazas at both ends of the bridge, and a construction schedule will depend on the shared-border management agreement being negotiated by the U.S. and Canadian governments. Moving the U.S. inspection lanes across the border would allow for more lanes and quicker crossings, proponents said.
Authorities estimated it could be two or three years before construction begins.
The existing three-lane bridge is the third busiest commercial crossing along the northern border. As many as 6,000 trucks cross the bridge daily, often encountering long delays.