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A BIG STEP FORWARD
POWER OF EMINENT DOMAIN GIVES PROJECT TO EXPAND PEACE BRIDGE SOME MOMENTUM

It took at least a year longer than necessary, but with the State Legislature's recent approval of the power of eminent domain, the effort to build a new bridge across the Niagara River has taken an important step forward. The measure gives the bridge authority the necessary power to obtain the land it needs in New York to do the job.

The law was sponsored in the State Assembly by Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, but approval was delayed for a year by several reasons, including the objections of his Democratic colleague, Sam Hoyt, whose district includes the bridge. As this year's largely unproductive legislative session ended, the bill, with only a few changes, was approved. In the Senate, where the bill was sponsored by Dale Volker, R-Depew, the measure had already been approved.

This should have been done long ago, but nothing is easy in New York. Even now, Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello is expressing concern that the bill takes authority away from the city, though the worry seems to be unnecessary. The legislation specifically protects the city's interests by requiring reference to a January 2003 memorandum of understanding between the city and bridge authority.

No one likes to use the power of eminent domain, by which government can compel the sale of privately owned property. But it is one of the few places where individuals, properly compensated, need to give way to the greater good. Without such authority, public projects such as highways, power plants and airports could not be constructed.

So it is with bridges. A bridge construction project, particularly one in an urban area, needs this power if it is to be completed in a reasonable amount of time -- or at all. Now that it has been delivered to the Peace Bridge Authority, the project should move ahead as quickly as diligence allows. We have dragged our feet long enough.