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A New York City consulting firm has been hired by New York State and Canada to conduct an 18-month study of traffic problems on international bridges in the Niagara Frontier.

The state Department of Transportation announced Monday that Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Quade and Douglas Inc. will conduct the study, which is expected to cost about $600,000.

The study will be divided into two parts -- a six-month examination of traffic flow, Customs issues and other short-term problems and then a yearlong study of the long-range capacity of the Peace Bridge and three other crossings.

The contract is still being negotiated between the consultants, the state Transportation Department, the Thruway Authority, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada, according to David Ernst, spokesman for the Transportation Department.

Each of those agencies will pay for 25 percent of the contract, which is expected to be signed early next month.

Those agencies will be part of an advisory committee, along with locally-elected officials and customs officials from both countries, railroad officials, representatives of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Bridge Authority and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission.

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