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Albany arrives; Cuomo's pledge could finally help create a new plaza and a new bridge

The cheering sound coming from Western New Yorkers some of them, anyway -- is in response to news that the state plans to take action by June to acquire and demolish all remaining properties needed to add seven inspection lanes and make other improvements to the Peace Bridge plaza.

It's about time.

The Peace Bridge and its plaza have come to representeverything that doesn't get done in Buffalo.

That tarnished image is steadily changing with a little help from our friends, in Albany and elsewhere.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently delivered news of his commitment to expediting the perpetually delayed expansion project for the international span's U.S. plaza. New Peace Bridge Authority Chairman Sam Hoyt reiterated the governor's remarks, adding that New York is prepared to exercise its powers of eminent domain, if necessary.

Condemnation powers were unavailable to the Peace Bridge Authority but should be utilized without hesitation by the state.

Such an action might be necessary to demolish seven properties along Busti Avenue and acquire the former Episcopal Church Home complex, in addition to part of Busti from the City of Buffalo.

There is a sense of cooperation from local leaders in getting this done, with Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown expected to expedite acquisition of city-owned properties, including parts of Busti.

The Peace Bridge plaza is a top priority, says Cuomo, and that's not difficult to believe coming from a governor whose earlier pledge of $1 billion -- in five-year, $200 million increments -- to boost Buffalo's staggering economy demonstrates a commitment to this area that is not just in words, but action.

The bridge project was made easier by the decision last year to scale it down and thereby involve fewer properties. The old plan called for a 37-acre proposal, while under the new plan the plaza is expanded from 17 acres to 25.

The downsized plaza project will reportedly cost between $85 million and $100 million. The state's $15 million will serve as a nice catalyst toward accomplishment.

It also opens the door to finally building a new signature bridge, which needs to be an iconic structure befitting its dramatic geographic and binational location.

Cuomo said government in Albany was a joke on late-night TV and that "We have come a long way, my friends."

To be sure, Buffalo's long-standing image of inertia will be difficult to erase, but if this Peace Bridge plaza and, gasp, bridge get completed, the laughs should turn into applause.