FORT ERIE, Ont. – Peace has returned in a big way to the Peace Bridge Authority.
Even as New York members of the binational body that runs the Peace Bridge recall the bitter relations of 2013 with their Canadian colleagues, a flurry of compliments between the formerly warring delegations marked the Friday transition that installed Buffalo attorney Kenneth A. Manning as new chairman.
“There’s been a history I could care less about and a future, as far as I can see, as bright,” said outgoing Chairman Tim Clutterbuck, a Canadian recently appointed to the authority by the Trudeau administration.
He also described the authority as having a “very congenial relationship,” adding he is “very comfortable with the way it is managed.”
And Manning, a veteran Democratic fundraiser with ties to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, assumed the authority gavel for the next year (the chairmanship rotates between the two delegations annually) while expressing his confidence in bridge management. Clutterbuck becomes vice-chairman.
It all presents a stark contrast to 2013, when then-Chairman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo led the Cuomo charge that pinned the lack of progress on the span’s Buffalo plaza as emblematic of the region’s economic doldrums. At one point, Hoyt sought the ouster of General Manager Ron Rienas of Ontario, sparking a bitter confrontation between the two factions that culminated in direct negotiations between the governor and Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer that produced a tenuous peace.
Since then, Hoyt has left the board and a new set of Canadian members has been appointed by Ottawa. Outward signals also point to harmony as the Peace Bridge continues its $100 million effort to replace the structure’s original 1927 deck, which has resulted in lane closures and some traffic restrictions during the winter construction schedule. The authority opted for a project concentrated in the winter months to avoid major traffic problems during peak summer travel times.
Thomas A. Boyle, the authority’s chief operating officer, said the project has passed the halfway mark and that three full lanes of traffic will be restored for the summer on May 15. Lane closures during the final year of the project will resume for the winter beginning in October.