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MASIELLO BACKS 'SIGNATURE' SPAN FOR PEACE BRIDGE

Mayor Masiello supports erecting a "signature bridge" to replace the aging Peace Bridge, provided the project fits city goals for the waterfront and West Side, a spokesman said today.

"The mayor has always thought Buffalo needed a gateway bridge," said Stephen T. Banko III, mayoral spokesman.

But he added that Masiello is "concerned that plans for the bridge haven't taken into consideration the city's linked plans for the area stretching from South Park to Lakeview (Homes)."

In particular, Masiello is concerned that a six-lane bridge across the Niagara River and connecting facilities on the Buffalo side would damage parts of LaSalle Park or Lakeview Homes.

Comprehensive waterfront planning has been under way for two years for the area, and detailed plans have been drawn for LaSalle Park and the Lakeview housing project, Banko pointed out.

"The city also won a nationwide competition for $28 million grant to completely redo the Lakeview Homes," he said.

Banko said Masiello wants to go forward with the city's plans, which were developed in consensus with area residents.

Masiello's view would sit well with the opinions of residents of the Peace Bridge area who attended a meeting Tuesday night.

They said they want to see a comprehensive planning approach that would transform their neighborhood near the international border into a gateway worthy of a major city.

"Over the past four or five years, we've been to 10 meetings like this, and no decision has been made, nothing has been done," Eileen Burgess of Niagara Street said after a 30-minute presentation by a state Department of Transportation consultant in the auditorium of the Central Library.

The meeting was held to give residents an opportunity to view maps and renderings of proposed alternatives for rerouting traffic around the U.S. Peace Bridge Plaza and connecting roads.

Few of the 20 people who attended appeared to have strong feelings about the plans, and several voiced concern about what ultimately will be done with the Peace Bridge.

The Peace Bridge Authority, which manages the bridge, has proposed building a companion span across the Black Rock Channel and Niagara River.

Recently, a multilane "superspan" that would move the bridge south and west beyond the Niagara Thruway and Porter Avenue has been proposed.

"The bridge authority plans within its own boundaries, but when you drive into Buffalo from the Peace Bridge, it looks like a garbage dump down Niagara Street; you can't plan in a vacuum," said Joseph A. Tauriello, a resident and former state senator.

Niagara District Council Member Robert Quintana said the authority needs to open up the dialogue on plans for the Peace Bridge. He noted the city's to reconstruct Lakeview Homes with federal funding and said all the planning for the area needs to be coordinated.

"It's all related. You can't go about presenting this to people in a piecemeal way. You have to have a major comprehensive plan," Quintana said.

Thomas Pisa, president of the Peace Bridge-Columbus Park Neighborhood Association, said the connecting road plans were needed and good.

But what is done at the Peace Bridge will determine development in a neighborhood that has been waiting for restoration much too long, he added.

"Our neighborhood has been deteriorating because they've been up in the air so long," Pisa said, adding that the DOT plans should have been put into effect by now.

Residents of Seventh Street, whose back yards abut Busti Avenue, said the plans add to uncertainty about what the authority will do with their property.

Neighbors said the authority has already acquired property on Busti.

"I just don't understand why they just don't buy the whole block," Dorothy Nystrom said.

She and her neighbors said plans for the plaza seem to offer residents nothing but views of parking lots or noise barriers.

Three alternatives presented Tuesday night are:

A separate exit ramp for the Peace Bridge and Niagara Street from the northbound Niagara Thruway.

A separate exit ramp from the northbound Niagara Thruway for Porter Avenue and the Peace Bridge, which would close northbound traffic to Niagara, rerouting it to Porter.

Three successive exit ramps from the northbound Niagara Thruway for Porter Avenue, the Peace Bridge and Niagara Street.

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