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A SIGNATURE EXPERT

The news that Christian Menn, one of the most renowned bridge architects in the world, will play a significant role in designing a new Peace Bridge is a welcome development for everyone seeking a good solution to this region's bridge controversy.

By lending his expertise and talent to the design work, Menn will give instant credibility to the process, and allay fears that the Peace Bridge Authority will stubbornly stick to its former twin-span proposal no matter what.

In addition, by enlisting the Swiss architect's assistance, the PBA has gone a long way toward restoring its own credibility. Keep in mind that this is the group that said the bridge deck would crumble within three years, and then said -- three years later -- that no redecking would be needed for another 10 years. Oops.

After first insisting on a monstrosity of a mismatched twin span, the authority, moved by public outrage on the American side of the river, came up with alternative designs that this page supported. Opponents, however, still insisted on a six-lane, "signature bridge." A judge's ruling that a new environmental impact study was needed moved the entire process back to square one.

No one knows what type of bridge will come out of this new process. However, Menn is known for solving problems of this sort. He brought clarity to a similar dispute in Boston. The state eventually dropped an 18-lane design and instead went with Menn's design, which incorporated function and aesthetics with a nod to Boston's sailing heritage.

Menn's innovative genius is exactly what's needed to pull together a Peace Bridge design that will prove satisfactory to both Americans and Canadians. He already has designed two of the 10 bridges nominated by experts as the most beautiful bridges built during the 20th century.

Menn reportedly has already started working on the project. He'll come up with his own ideas and pass them on to other designers working on the project. Those designers will actually develop the ideas and come up with their own to be critiqued by Menn.

The authority needs to ensure that there's no interference in this process and that Menn is given as much latitude as he needs to complete the job. It's best to give him room to work.

Vincent P. Lamb of Parsons Transportation Group, the authority's project manager for the environmental review, invited Menn to work on the project. Lamb and the authority have done a service to bridge enthusiasts -- and everyone else -- on both sides of the river.

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