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MAKE OUR NEW BRIDGE THE SOURCE OF RESIDENTS' PRIDE AND VISITORS' AWE

If the push for an extraordinary design for the new Buffalo-to-Fort Erie bridge needs an invigorating motto, try these words from Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Think about glory."

Think about how an international crossing over a sparkling river can provide a memorable, one-of-a-kind sight -- one that brings pride to residents of this place and awe to the travelers who come our way.

Moynihan's words about glory were offered at a valuable Sunday morning session in City Hall, arranged by Council President James Pitts. Moynihan asserted there that the new bridge should be designed so that it ranks with Buffalo's greatest architectural classics.

That's a goal that this community should pursue with determination. A new bridge across the Niagara is a rare opportunity for greatness.

The Peace Bridge Authority, the bi-national agency that would build and own the bridge, says it is open to innovative ideas even though it is well along in the planning of its own twin-span concept. There are welcome signs that some of the authority's leaders are responsive. It's encouraging that Brian J. Lipke, the authority's new chairman, is saying the authority wants "to build the best bridge possible."

The twin design adopted earlier by the authority does not stake out pride or awe as its primary mission.

However, virtually all of the opposition to it has come from this side of the river. The Bridge Authority's voting power is split 50-50 between the United States and Canada. Lipke is one of the U.S. representatives. It is important now to attract Canadian interest and support for an extraordinary design.

Sen. Moynihan can be expected to make high-level Canadian contacts, as he already has done. Mayor Masiello is prepared to talk with Fort Erie's mayor. Other officials and citizens of the community should make use of their own Canadian contacts.

To get an idea of the possibilities, all involved should consider the innovative concept put forward by the world-famed bridge engineer T.Y. Lin, dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning Bruno Freschi, and Cannon Design, the local architectural firm. It shows a cable-stayed bridge flowing from a single pylon in the middle of the river. The roadway is curved so travelers get changing views as they cross the river.

Plans are under way for a forum sponsored by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership at which representatives of varying interests will look at the bridge possibilities together. An event of this sort, sometimes called a design charette, can produce a strong consensus about the new bridge. At best, it would also address the layout of the bridge plaza on our side, a companion issue that is unresolved at all levels.

The plaza is a critical and complex component, not to be viewed as an afterthought. It must accommodate new traffic efficiently, and it represents a unique opportunity to create a striking gateway to the United States.

Time becomes a matter of concern. To make possible a fuller community examination, the U.S. Coast Guard, the lead agency in the bridge permit process, has wisely granted Moynihan's request for a 90-day extension of the time for public comment. It's unfortunate that the public's voice was not heard earlier, but there needs to be a brief time-out so it can be heard now.

Finally, attention needs to be directed to Moynihan's assertion that money in the new federal transportation bill can be tapped for the bridge project. The authority's planning has been based on its capability of financing the twin span from tolls and other bridge-related revenues. Do-it-yourself is an admirable concept, but, in this case, it may have produced too narrow a vision. If the addition of federal money will produce a memorable bridge worthy of civic pride, this community must go for it.

Think about glory, indeed.

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