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Group urges jury to pick new cable-stayed bridge design

The New Millennium Group -- which has championed a new signature Peace Bridge since 1999 -- called on a design jury Tuesday to select a contemporary cable-stayed design.

And the group unveiled a concept it likes.

Swiss bridge designer Christian Menn now suggests a curved deck for a three-tower cable-stayed concept he proposed last year. The rendering shows a curve toward Lake Erie.

"We're not married to this particular concept," said Patrick McNichol, chairman of New Millennium Group's transportation action group. "This is one of many magnificent possibilities. Right now, it's the best we've seen."

The group's renewed push for a cable-stayed bridge comes as the design jury prepares to begin deliberating next week. The jury will first deliberate on whether to recommend a companion span or a replacement bridge. Then the jury will discuss what kind of bridge to recommend: a suspension, cable-stayed, steel arch or concrete, segmental span.

The current environmental study to decide what type of bridge to build started in spring 2000 following a ruling by State Supreme Court Justice Eugene M. Fahey in April that the authority's previous environmental study for a new bridge was flawed.

Robert G. Shibley, appointed by Mayor Anthony M. Masiello as the design jury's co-chairman, said the jury's first meeting earlier this month went well.

"We have made no decisions yet," Shibley said.

Shibley said he and co-chairman Ted Ogilvie of Canada "are working with a robust and well-informed binational team. The team has substantial technical capacity and has a strong grounding in our respective communities."

Menn is no longer under contract with the Peace Bridge Authority, although the design jury, if it chooses, could ask him to refine his concepts.

The Menn concept unveiled Tuesday could be built as a companion or replacement bridge with five or six lanes.

"The curved alignment requires three towers as . . . an alternative for the straight bridge," Menn said Tuesday in an e-mail to The News.

Such a bridge would be the longest curved cable-stayed bridge in the world, McNichol said. The estimated cost is $110 million, making it "within the authority's budget," he said.

Ron Rienas, the authority's general manager, said he doesn't know if that estimate is accurate.

"I don't know what that number includes," he said.

The authority listed the estimated construction cost of Menn's initial three-tower design -- without the curved deck -- at $110 million to $120 million.

All of Menn's concepts are being considered by the design jury, Rienas said.

"I'm not sure how helpful it is to come out at this stage of the process and take a position on a bridge," Rienas said.

But Shibley said he and Ogilvie welcome comments.

"We are glad to have the input," said Shibley, director of the Urban Design Project at the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning. "The concepts we are reviewing include opportunities for discussion on the merits of the Christian Menn proposal."

Earlier this month, the design jury received a technical briefing from consultants, Shibley said.

e-mail: plakamp@buffnews.com

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