The Peace Bridge Authority reviewed several proposals Friday for access roads and a U.S. plaza, including an option that would locate a three-story garage across Busti Avenue in a neighborhood already wary of the agency's intentions.
"We've taken the position not to support any rezoning on Busti Avenue that would be needed for parking, and we've notified the mayor and our councilman," said Thomas Pisa, president of the Peace Bridge/Columbus Park Association.
The garage suggested for properties recently purchased at 757-765 Busti was one of several concepts discussed for a plaza reconstruction project that would not begin until at least 2005.
The access roads are on a faster track and are expected to be completed by 2000. All options would remove roads from historic Front Park and route traffic to eliminate much of the problem with cars and trucks crisscrossing near the Peace Bridge toll booths.
One access-road option continues to call for an off-ramp from the Niagara Thruway to Porter Avenue, which would require demolition of up to 11 buildings in the Lakeview Homes public housing complex.
A public hearing on the three access-road proposals and the three plaza options will be held in May. Road construction costs range from $14 million to $19 million.
The authority has $23.5 million in federal funding authorized for the project.
Costs of the plaza options have not been finalized, but architects say about 30 percent of the project, including the garage, could be avoided if the authority is allowed to relocate many inspection and toll operations to Canada.
Negotiations are under way under the U.S.-Canada Shared Border Accord in pursuit of that goal.
"That is the preferred option if the accord is agreed upon," said Lawrence Meckler, board chairman. "We would not need the parking garage across Busti and the more expensive decking."
All of the plaza and road options also fit in with the authority's intention to build a second bridge by 2002. Each of the plaza-reconstruction proposals also includes narrowing Busti Avenue to two lanes.
Authority officials say they plan to build a 25-space surface parking lot at a former commercial property it owns at 783 Busti Ave. regardless of which option they pursue for the plaza. The neighborhood has fought attempts by the Peace Bridge to cross Busti. Its opposition was important in the authority deciding earlier not to expand its plaza in that direction.
A parking-garage would constitute a similar intrusion because it would be taller than nearby homes and be located adjacent to them, Pisa said. There is less opposition to the proposed surface lot.
"We think if they continue to purchase homes and buildings, they'll slowly move the plaza closer to the neighborhood," he said.
Peace Bridge officials maintain their policy is to acquire properties across Busti if they become available. The residential properties being suggested for the 212-space garage were bought in February for $575,000.
The plaza proposals also call for separating bicyclists and pedestrians from plaza traffic by creating an enclosed walkway on top of toll booths. Cyclists and walkers would use stairs or an elevator to reach the elevated walkway.
The issue took on importance recently when the authority backed off a controversial plan to ban cyclists and walkers from the bridge because of construction over the next five years.