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SWISS ARCHITECT OFFERS HOPE FOR SOLVING BRIDGE CONFLICT

The Peace Bridge Authority has taken a significant step that should bring loud plaudits from even its shrillest critics. Convincing Swiss bridge architect Christian Menn to offer his ideas on a new bridge across the Niagara River is an inspired move that bodes well for a satisfactory ending to the long-running Peace Bridge controversy. The authority now should take the next needed step and name Menn its official premier design consultant. It's a necessary and deserved designation to keep the project on target.

Anybody who has seen Menn's 10-lane, cable-stayed bridge now under construction across the Charles River in Boston can't help but feel highly enthusiastic about his involvement here. The Boston bridge is a magnificent, absolutely stunning structure. I saw it in December and was amazed. If a bridge could truly be called beautiful, this one can. Its majestic white cables are unlike anything I've seen in bridges elsewhere in the U.S. or Europe.

I recall saying to the people who accompanied me to the Boston bridge site, "This is fantastic. Our Peace Bridge people need to see that a bridge has the possibility of becoming the so-called signature of a city, as this one most certainly is likely to be. I think that down the line, it will be as famous as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge."

The bridge Menn designed for downtown Boston's huge Central Artery/Ted Williams Tunnel Project was preceded by massive community unhappiness with the bridge complex that was planned. The battle over that bridge was similar to the uproar created here by the initial plans for a twin to the Peace Bridge.

Massachusetts paid heed to the public uproar, dropped its original plan and invited Menn to submit his ideas on what should be done. His assignment was a tough one because the new bridge had to be configured to fit between an old bridge and an underwater tunnel. At best, it would be a tight fit. What Menn came up with was remarkable, all agree.

Menn's credentials speak for themselves. Two bridges he designed for his native Switzerland were nominated as the most beautiful bridges constructed in the 20th century. When completed next year, his Charles River bridge will be the world's widest cable-stayed bridge. It's not only big, it's beautiful and totally functional.

The Peace Bridge Authority plans to hire a design firm to contribute its ideas to the project and to do the detail work. Menn is basically a concept man and will not get involved in the nuts-and-bolts work necessary. Given Menn's record and ingenuity, I am confident his involvement can be the key to ending our extended debate about a successful and well-accepted Peace Bridge project.

There's been more good news about another Buffalo area project. Plans for the Adelphia Communications Center in downtown Buffalo have finally materialized. It now is almost a certainty that Adelphia's $125 million operations center on Buffalo's waterfront will become a reality.

The final memorandum of understanding is now in place, and only the approval of Buffalo's Common Council and Erie County's Legislature is needed to proceed with this important project. Hopefully, no last minute hang-ups will surface in either body, and the indications from the leadership of both are that approval will move ahead without undue delay.

The Adelphia agreement is important in many respects. By itself, it guarantees retention of 2,500 jobs in New York State, the creation of 1,000 new jobs in Buffalo and the maintenance of 500 existing Adelphia jobs in the city.

More important, perhaps, is the message the Adelphia agreement sends to other corporations. They cannot fail to observe that one of the nation's largest cable companies selected Buffalo for its principal operations center. In their deliberations about future expansion sites, they certainly will ask why Adelphia made its Buffalo decision.

The Rigas family is known in corporate America as deliberate and conservative in making decisions that impact its financial future. Its choice of Buffalo involved a corporate commitment of $50 million to $60 million, and was made only after a long corporate review. The contributions of the state, the county and the city to the package were indicators of governmental determination to attract business to our area. This, too, will not be overlooked by corporate site seekers.

MURRAY B. LIGHT is the former editor of The Buffalo News.

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