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The Peace Bridge Authority approved contracts Friday to build a new duty-free shop in Fort Erie, Ont., part of a plan to offer drivers snacks and travel information in addition to merchandise.

The largest contract, $2.99 million (Canadian funds), went to Merit Contractors of St. Catharines, Ont.

The architectural firm of MMC International Canadian will receive $181,900 (Canadian) for design and inspection work. MKB Associates of Toronto was awarded a $180,800 (Canadian) contract to serve as project manager.

Plans call for a 27,000-square-foot structure on the west side of Central Avenue next to the Commercial Vehicle Processing Center. Construction is scheduled to begin within a month and end by November.

The new shop will replace a much smaller 6,000-square-foot building and offer a food court and travel information.

In other matters, the authority released its latest traffic statistics. The bridge experienced a 7.6 percent increase in truck traffic since the start of the year. Passenger car crossings during the same period increased by 5.9 percent, reversing a trend of static automobile traffic levels in 1997.

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