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Another Voice: Peace Bridge projects must move forward in Buffalo

By Mark Grisanti and Sean Ryan

In recent weeks, a lot of attention has been paid to the Peace Bridge Authority and our proposed legislation. We would like to clarify how the legislation would work and why we think it is needed.

The authority was created solely for the purpose of financing the construction of the Peace Bridge. The original legislation that formed the authority provided that it would dissolve upon repayment of its bonds. Our legislation would return the Bridge Authority to that status, thereby putting the future of the authority in the hands of its board.

If the board can function to a point where it is able to issue new bonds, that tells us that it is also able to do responsible and necessary projects on the U.S. side and that having the authority still makes sense. But, if the board is not able to go forward with a bond offering, that tells us that dysfunction remains and the authority should be dissolved.

During the last 20 years, the Fort Erie plaza was dramatically expanded and rebuilt, and the Canadian customs facilities were renovated and expanded. During those same 20 years, the situation in Buffalo has worsened. Millions of dollars have been wasted, and our plaza remains cramped, impossibly difficult to navigate and looks like a truck stop. The surrounding neighborhood has been destabilized, and a nursing home was run out of business.

Our legislation would modernize management of the Peace Bridge. Currently, 80 percent of northern border crossings are managed in a way that allows each side to operate as it sees fit. In New York, the Thousand Islands Bridge is a prime example. The Canadian side is run by the Federal Bridge Corp. Ltd., and the U.S. side is run by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority. The two sides have a 12-page agreement that allows them to work with each other to accomplish individual and shared goals. The same thing could be happening at the Peace Bridge.

If dissolution were to occur, control of the Buffalo plaza would revert to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, as per the intent of the original law. While the NFTA is not perfect, its operation of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport cannot be questioned, and it has the experience to operate an international hub of transportation.

Right now, the U.S. plaza is slow and difficult for passenger traffic, and slowly moving trucks are creating numerous health issues. We want to change that because passenger traffic is very beneficial to our economy, and efficiently moving trucks will improve our air quality. We need a plaza that fits our local community, that addresses our goals for the waterfront and that actually improves our city.

To get that plaza, we need local control. It’s just that simple.

Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, represents the 60th State Senate District. Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, represents the 149th Assembly District.