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Buffalo has rightly focused on the construction of the companion bridge to the Peace Bridge as an opportunity to create a new symbol for the region, one signifying both the historic symbolism of the Peace Bridge and the Niagara region's approach to the future.

The design for a new Peace Bridge began with a basic question for the Peace Bridge Authority: Whether to emulate the existing bridge or build something entirely different beside it.

The Buffalo News helped them make that decision by co-sponsoring the idea competition and workshop. The workshop recommended that the companion bridge emulate the existing bridge, but improve on its appearance. The Authority retained us in April to help them reach that goal. We believe we have done so with the bridge now under design.

In designing the companion bridge, we have emulated the best part of the existing bridge -- the five arches that stand end-to-end across the Niagara River, forming a continuous line that allows the eye to sweep easily from arch to arch. The companion bridge will also have five arches, but they will be tapered.

Half of the columns and complex bracing that block views through the existing bridge will be gone. The new bridge will be much more open and "streamlined." It will clearly be seen as a bridge of our time.

The most prominent part of the existing bridge is the Parker truss over the Black Rock channel. It defines the bridge silhouette and serves as the gateway for travelers. Unfortunately, it is also the least attractive part of the existing bridge.

For the companion bridge, we have proposed in its place a single large arch, 600 feet long and 170 feet high. It will span not only the Black Rock Channel but the Thruway and Conrail tracks. To give an idea of its size, Rich Stadium -- field and stands -- would fit within it. The arch will rise above and frame the truss.

The Black Rock arch will now define the silhouette of the Peace Bridge. It will be its defining element, the landmark that people recognize.

This new arch will be particularly dramatic to travelers on the Thruway, especially approaching from the south. It will reach from Bird Island to beyond the Conrail tracks and be 80 feet above the traveler's head, the height of an eight story building.

The roadway will be suspended within the Black Rock arch with cables, so that the roadway will seem to float and travelers will have views in all directions. The space within the arch ribs will open upward toward the sky. Passing through it will be a dramatic welcoming experience for travelers arriving in the U.S.

The arch form is the traditional symbol of connection. Making an arch the dominant image of the Peace Bridge will strengthen the historic symbolism of the Peace Bridge as a connection between peaceful nations. The new Black Rock arch will span all of the modes of transportation on which the Niagara region was built: water, road and rail. Modern cable suspended arch bridges have become symbols of the best of modern technology and landmarks for locations. Buffalo can expect nothing less.

Best of all, the Peace Bridge Authority is prepared to finance it and build it right now, without waiting for funds from afar.

Many have suggested that the new companion span would be a better visual combination with the existing Peace Bridge if the Parker truss over the Black Rock Channel were replaced by another Black Rock arch. We have recommended to the Authority that it seriously consider that step when it comes time to rehabilitate the existing bridge. Whether that can be done will depend on financing and many other issues which would have to be resolved.

Frederick Gottemoeller & Associates, Inc.
Columbia, Md

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