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NEW BRIDGE UNIT SEEKS INPUT, NOT CONSENSUS

Key members of a Peace Bridge review panel who looked at alternative designs last year, but could not agree on what kind of bridge to build, will get another chance to shape the project.

About a dozen people selected by the city for a new Peace Bridge advisory panel served on last year's Public Consensus Review Panel.

And that assures a strong presence on the new panel for those who favor a new U.S. plaza location and want something more dramatic than a twin span.

City officials picked them, among others, to sit on a new advisory board for an environmental study into what kind of bridge to build across the Niagara River.

But those on the new advisory committee will not be charged with picking what kind of bridge to build or where to put the U.S. plaza.

They are simply being asked for their ideas and opinions, said Vincent P. Lamb of Parsons Transportation Group, project manager for the Peace Bridge expansion's environmental review.

"While consensus among the advisory committee members is sought, it's not required," Lamb said.

The partnership putting together the new Binational Civic Advisory Committee consists of officials from the Peace Bridge Authority, Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont. It is up to them to agree on the best plan to emerge from the study, and they're relying on the advisory committee for community input.

An equal number of U.S. and Canadian citizens will serve on the new committee, and they'll hold different opinions and represent diverse interests, Lamb said.

Buffalo officials picked 23 people to serve on the committee.

"They're not there just because of their experience but because they're the ones who have had something to say about the whole process," said Joseph N. Giambra, the city's public works commissioner.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said the appointees "were very much involved in this from day one, so there's no catching up to do on the issues."

Members of last year's Public Consensus Review Panel selected to sit on the new advisory committee are: Rich Tobe, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo; Bob Kresee, Margaret L. Wendt Foundation; Sister Denise Roche, D'Youville College president; Jeff Belt, New Millennium Group; Chip Bown, The Tower Group; Ron Carnevale, West Side Business and Taxpayers Association; Ed Cosgrove, a lawyer; the Rev. Ivery Daniels, Voice-Buffalo; Brenda McDuffie, Buffalo Urban League; Joe Tauriello, former state senator from West Side; Gretchen Toles, Olmsted Parks advocate; Randolph Marks, co-chairman of the Public Consensus Review Panel; and Andres Garcia, an advocate for the West Side Hispanic community.

Others selected to sit on the new committee are Ralph Abate, Abate Engineering; Robert Biniszkiewicz of Berlow Realty, who has suggested a new northern plaza; Niagara Councilman Dominic Bonifacio; David Colligan, a lawyer; Pamela Earl, a Front Park advocate; Holly Sinnott, Buffalo Niagara World Trade Center executive director; Lawlor Quinlan, a lawyer who has advocated using less space for a plaza so that parkland can be restored; and David Hahn Baker, a park advocate.

City officials said more people may be asked to join in the future.

Also, Erie County Executive Joel Giambra and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership will each nominate someone for the committee.

Fort Erie officials have not yet announced who they intend to select.

Peace Bridge Authority members will not appoint anyone to the committee, but they have invited the Episcopal Church Home, Olmsted Park Conservancy and the Buffalo West Side Environmental Defense Fund -- former legal foes -- to each appoint a representative.

The advisory committee will also be asked, in addition to the public, to participate in collaborative workshops. This is where technical discussions will take place and workshop members will vote on alternatives.

Alternatives selected at these workshops will be recommended to the bridge authority for consideration.

The presence of so many Public Consensus Review Panel members on the new committee is significant because they overwhelmingly endorsed the idea of a new northern plaza.

The advisory panel of U.S. citizens also pushed for an aesthetically pleasing bridge, although not any specific design. The panel called for a single six-lane bridge, preferably constructed of concrete.

The panel concluded that a single six-lane concrete bridge would cost less to build, $307.9 million versus $327.3 million for the twin span.

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