Council splits on bills seeking more Peace Bridge reviews - The Buffalo News

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Council splits on bills seeking more Peace Bridge reviews

An effort to get the Common Council to take a skeptical stand on developments at the Peace Bridge resulted in a split decision Tuesday.

North Council Member Joseph Golombek had urged his colleagues to support two measures. One sought a federal investigation into whether environmental review laws were followed for recent Peace Bridge projects. The other would extend a public review period for a project that would move traffic out of Front Park and onto the Niagara Thruway.

Golombek does not represent the neighborhood around the Peace Bridge but is sympathetic to concerns about the impact of truck traffic on residents’ health. He faced opposition from some on the Council who did not want to approve both resolutions, including Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera, who represents the area.

The Council approved the request that the state allow more time for public comment on the Gateway Connections Improvement Project, but sent back to committee the request for a federal investigation into whether environmental laws were followed for Peace Bridge projects.

The Council called for the public comment period on a 2,083-page draft environmental impact statement on the project to be extended until Feb. 28. It began Nov. 15 and was scheduled to end Jan. 13, but the state Department of Transportation extended it until Tuesday. Rivera said the state’s latest project is seeking to mitigate air quality concerns by removing truck traffic from city streets and putting it directly on the Niagara Thruway, and said the text of the resolution asking for a federal investigation was inaccurate.

“I really don’t think, after meeting with some of the Council members, that they understand this connection project,” Rivera said.

He suggested that state and federal officials responsible for the bridge plaza expansion project be invited to address the Council’s concerns, an idea other Council members supported.

Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said Rivera’s wishes, as the district Council member, should be followed. He sent the item back to committee.

Some neighbors have long advocated for all truck traffic to be removed from the Peace Bridge and moved elsewhere, a position that the entire Council has in the past supported, though some have said that is unrealistic.

Neither Council measure is binding, but each would send a message to state and federal authorities that the Council is concerned about efforts to expand the Peace Bridge plaza. “I don’t think the state and the feds shoving this down our throat is the best thing for Buffalo,” Golombek said.

Expansion of the plaza and improving traffic flow has been a priority of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Columbus Parkway resident Kathy Mecca told lawmakers last week that the public comment period for the project should be extended because sufficient effort had not been made to notify the West Side’s large communities of non-English speakers.

Rivera said the state Department of Transportation had followed the notification law.

Mecca also urged lawmakers to support the resolution calling for an investigation by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency into Peace Bridge projects since Jan. 1, 2012.


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