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A NEW BRIDGE PLAZA
A CITIZEN GROUP LETS OFFICIALS KNOW A CREATIVE PUBLIC IS STILL INVOLVED

The New Millennium Group's concept proposal for a new American plaza at the Peace Bridge site is a welcome reminder that the public still is involved in this lengthy design process and still seeking ways to make a much-needed project better.

While it is too soon to evaluate the plan, which would shrink the current U.S. plaza and move it north of Massachusetts Avenue under a shared-border arrangement, it deserves consideration in the Peace Bridge Authority's studies.

That should not stall progress on this effort. The citizen group merely wants its ideas included among the alternatives to be looked at during the required environmental impact review. The Bridge Authority notes that details of border responsibilities, and the spatial and facility needs those responsibilities will require, must be known before any real evaluation can be completed.

New Millennium Group leaders insist that their northern gateway proposal, if part of a Peace Bridge expansion, would benefit the entire community. They want to move all Peace Bridge connecting roads north to Niagara Street and away from Frederick Law Olmsted's Front Park and the historic Fort Porter site, where a pre-Civil War facility was razed to make way for the original 1927 bridge. The group would like Front Park and Fort Porter fully restored.

The group's plan needs study. Peace Bridge Authority General Manager Ron Rienas contends that moving the plaza north would take more properties and drive up project costs, for example. Niagara Council Member Dominic Bonifacio rightly raises questions about the number of ramps involved and the possibility that some would need to be 30 feet above ground level.

For now, discussion of details seems premature. The Bridge Authority has yet to meet with federal officials to determine requirements for the Canadian side. What has to go into both plazas will have major impacts on any design.

But a proactive effort by the New Millennium Group reasserts community interest and involvement in this long and complicated project -- and the more good yet timely ideas that draw consideration and debate, the better.