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The International Joint Commission asked officials of the Peace Bridge Authority Thursday evening whether they ever seriously considered building a single-span bridge.

Their answers were less than satisfying to the commissioners -- and to opponents of the planned twin-span bridge, who turned out in force for a public hearing in the Marriott Inn, Amherst.

The question came from Commissioner Susan Bayh, wife of second-generation U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., as she served as chairwoman of the public hearing attended by 45 residents and two dozen officials from U.S., Canadian and binational agencies.

The commission had just heard impassioned pleas on behalf of the rejected single-span bridge design from several residents, ranging from West Side resident Philip B. Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, to Mary Catherine Malley, a corporate attorney with the law firm of Hodgson, Russ, Andrews, Woods and Goodyear, who spoke as private individuals.

"I'd like to know," Mrs. Bayh said to the Peace Bridge Authority delegation, "if you ever considered a single-span, single-pylon bridge."

Keith J. Harlock, project manager for De Leuw, Cather & Co., replied that such a bridge must rest on a central pier, which must be placed too close to the water intake beneath the old bridge.

"We were told that it couldn't be removed," he added.

"Isn't it inoperative?" she asked.

"I believe that's true," Harlock replied. "It's kept for emergencies."

Deborah J. Chadsey, an environmental attorney for the Peace Bridge Authority, explained that building a single-span bridge would mean demolishing the old Peace Bridge, which was opposed by state preservation officials.

Resident Melissa Granger asked whether the authority had any document from the state officially denying permission to demolish the bridge.

"No," she replied.

Steven Mayer, bridge operations manager, argued that a bridge that "qualifies as a historic structure" may not be taken down, even if it is not listed as a landmark.

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