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Project must proceed, even without border agreement

The Peace Bridge project was dealt another blow with the rejection of shared border management. While some support delaying construction in favor of a new federal administration still years away, or worse yet argue that no development should occur at all, the fact remains that the bridge is beyond capacity and must be expanded.

Nowhere else can you find one mile of roadway more valuable to this region's economic prosperity than the Peace Bridge. Today, Canadians account for 40 percent of D'Youville College students, 15,000 visitors to each Buffalo Bills home game, one-third of patrons at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and 12 percent of Buffalo Sabres season ticket holders. That is authentic, imported wealth coming to Buffalo.

Buffalo Niagara's economy is highly dependent on predictable and efficient access to Southern Ontario, a market of more than 8 million and North America's second fastest growing economy. To ensure confidence about efficient cross-border travel, we must build additional capacity now.

The population of Southern Ontario and the Buffalo Niagara region is 300 percent larger today than it was when the Peace Bridge first opened. Existing infrastructure doesn't work; ignoring this problem will damage our economic relationship with Southern Ontario.

For example, the Ford Stamping Plant in Woodlawn cannot survive and support its more than 1,000 employees without on-time delivery of product to its sister plant in Oakville, Ontario. Six thousand trucks pass over the Peace Bridge each day carrying $700 million in goods and commerce between our countries each week. Today, on average, trucks wait 59 minutes at the Peace Bridge. A new bridge, expected to decrease that wait to approximately 14 minutes, will not only save cargo carriers $1.14 billion in lost time annually, it will protect local residents from the harmful health effects of extended engine idling.

The new American plaza will clear the air with more efficient traffic, and return acres of parkland originally taken from Olmsted's Front Park, creating nearly eight acres of new greenspace.

Finally, a new plaza and bridge will inject $315 million into the regional economy, creating jobs and providing much-needed economic stimulus to the West Side of Buffalo and Niagara Street, as the Northern Gateway to Buffalo from Canada. The towered, cable-stayed companion bridge design, selected in a binational consensus process, adds four new lanes for a total of seven lanes at the Peace Bridge. The new plaza will increase the number of booths from 18 to 24, expediting the inspections process and moving people and goods much more efficiently.

Adding another multiyear delay to this long-stalled project is neither responsible nor acceptable. Now is the time for this community to join together and support efforts to build our bridge to economic growth.

Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, represents the 27th District in Congress.

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