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COMMENT PERIOD ON TWIN SPAN EXTENDED 90 DAYS

The Coast Guard on Monday bowed to the request of Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan that it delay final approval of the Peace Bridge Authority's "twin" proposal for three months.

Nick Mpras, chief of the Coast Guard's bridge office, said the agency would keep the comment period on the authority's plans open for another 90 days.

The New York Democrat made the request for the extension last Thursday, the day the public comment period would have expired.

At the same time, Mpras said in an interview that the Coast Guard does not necessarily accept one of the key points on which the authority's application for a green light is based.

The authority says the government should consider the bridge-expansion plan and the plan to redo the bridge's toll plaza in Front Park as separate and distinct projects.

This claim is opposed by supporters of Front Park, the westernmost segment of Frederick Law Olmsted's 1871 parkway plan for Buffalo, and by SuperSpan Upper Niagara LLP, proponents of the "signature" bridge concept.

Mpras said the authority insists it will make major changes to the plaza, whether its twin plan is approved or not. But, he added, "We are neither proponents nor opponents of any single project."

Tony Bullock, Moynihan's chief of staff, praised the Coast Guard's decision.

"The focus in Buffalo," Bullock said, "is clearly focused on the single-plan design" as the way to expand the capacity of the Peace Bridge. Bullock said plans for the plaza should have as their focus a portion of the Hippocratic oath: "Do no harm. Or, do no further harm to the park."

The effort should be to "restore and beautify what remains of the park," Bullock said.

Clinton E. Brown, SuperSpan spokesman, said the extension gives the Buffalo and Fort Erie communities time to reach a consensus on building a "great bridge."

Brian Lipke, authority chairman, said the extension will work well with plans by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership to conduct a community symposium on bridge design alternatives. But he noted that the authority's engineers warn that the deck on the existing bridge will have to be replaced between 2000 and 2004.

"My chief concern is that we might not have a new bridge built when the time comes to replace that decking," he said.

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