The Peace Bridge and Buffalo
What can construction do for an area? The construction of an office building may bring in a firm, corporation, or company. The construction of a sporting arena may keep a team where it currently is, or bring a new team to that area. For example, the construction of the HSBC Arena kept the Sabres in Buffalo. The construction of a casino may bring in tourists, or people who live in the outlying suburbs. It seems obvious that all of the prior examples bring economic growth and development to that certain place. However, there is a less obvious question to be asked. If a new bridge is built what can that bring to an area? In the case of Buffalo, many people believe economic revival.
Personally, I have lived in Buffalo my entire life. Last summer I worked at the Peace Bridge in a tollbooth. Working at the Peace Bridge and living in Buffalo have resulted in me taking a great interest in the building of a new bridge. This new bridge just may bring prosperity back to Buffalo.
A privately owned company constructed the current Peace Bridge in 1927. It became a link between Fort Erie, Canada and Buffalo, New York. The bridge is over one mile long, 5,800 feet, and holds three lanes of traffic. The center lane may go north or south depending on the volume of traffic. In 1934, the Great Depression caused a change. The Peace Bridge became publicly owned. As a result there were no taxes to be paid, and financing for projects could be obtained by issuing bonds at a low interest rate. The publicly owned bridge instituted a board of governors called the Peace Bridge Authority, PBA. The board, which made all decisions, was made up of six Americans and three Canadians. From that time until 1996 there were few changes made. Only some minor renovations took place. The renovations were the repaving and repainting of the bridge, and the addition of new traffic lights and tollbooths.
February of 1996 marked an important change. This was the changing of the board of governors. It was changed to five Americans, instead of six, and five Canadians, instead of three. Now there was even representation from both countries, the American majority was eliminated. Only two months later, in April of 1996, the PBA announced plans to build a new bridge. Since that time, there have been some structural plans drawn, but there have been no strong indications that a bridge will be built soon. The building of the new bridge will be completely self-funded. There will be no money used from taxes in the United States or Canada. All of the money will come from tollbooth collections, and from money the PBA makes from leasing land. The leased land is land that is owned by the PBA, and is located in the surrounding area of the Peace Bridge. The PBA has never relied on funding support from the governments of the United States or Canada. They will not receive any for the building of the new bridge. The building of a new bridge is necessary.
The old bridge is structurally sound, it could last for another 75 years, but it is just not large enough to accommodate all the traffic. Once again, it is necessary to remember that the Peace Bridge is an important link between the United States and Canada. The PBA states, “There was ten million dollars traveling over the bridge weekly in 1990, presently in 2001 there is 700 million dollars traveling over the bridge weekly.” In addition, 6,000 trucks carrying commercial goods travel over the bridge daily. By the year 2003, the Peace Bridge will reach ultimate capacity. If traffic continues to grow, the bridge will become outdated by 2004. Therefore, a new bridge is needed.
The new bridge will either be a twin span, or a signature span. A twin span is a bridge in which two bridges essentially function as one. In the case of the Peace Bridge, the idea is that an identical bridge will be built next to the existing one. This should limit traffic problems because one bridge will support northern traffic to Fort Erie, whereas the other bridge will support southern traffic to Buffalo. However, people from the Buffalo area do not advocate this design. For example, The New Millennium Group of Buffalo (area professionals in their 20s and 30s) said, “The Peace Bridge is so ugly that nobody will even jump off it, to build another like it would be absurd.” In addition, David Chen of The New York Times states, “The current bridge looks like a scaly aquatic monster.”
The people of Buffalo advocate a signature span design. This type of bridge would resemble the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The signature bridge is a single bridge that is supported by a foundation at the center, and suspension cables. This type of bridge holds north, and south traffic. People from Buffalo like this style because of its beauty, and landmark possibilities. However, no agreement can be made on what type of bridge to build.
The twin span would cost 90 million dollars and take 4-5 years to build, whereas the signature span would cost around 70 million dollars and take 8-10 years to build. The root of the problem is that Buffalo wants the perfect bridge built, and Fort Erie just wants something to be built. Fort Erie’s point can be summed up with a quote by Mayor Redkop, “The bridge is only one mile long, just build and build now.” Both sides must come to an agreement or nothing will be built. The building of a new bridge is crucial. When a new one is built economic positives will be great for Buffalo.
The PBA explains, “The Peace Bridge is the fastest growing international link in the world. It leads to intrastate, interstate, and international commerce.” The money value of the goods traveling over the bridge is up 70% since 1990. Also, the Peace Bridge accounts for 12% of all trade between the Unites States and Canada. That 12% of trade is equivalent to 3.64 billion dollars, and it is speculated that the new bridge will increase that amount. The reason for the increase will be the creation of the Continental 1 Link. The link would make Buffalo the common point in trucks heading to the United States from Toronto. The idea is that the trucks would depart from Toronto, and head over the new bridge. From there, the trucks would travel to east coast cities such as Boston, southern cities like Miami, and west coast cities such as Seattle, and Denver. In addition, the Continental 1 Link means that trucks heading to Toronto from the United States would have the city of Buffalo as their common point. If a new bridge is not built it is definite that another area will take some of that 3.64 billion dollars away from Buffalo. For example, more trucks may use the Whirlpool or Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, New York. It is also possible that other states will see more border traffic. These states most likely will be Michigan and Vermont. These are economic reasons why a new bridge will be positive for Buffalo. There are even more reasons, especially dealing with tourism.
According to the PBA, “Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world.” It is projected that more than 30 million people will visit Toronto by the year 2016. That is, on average, two million people a year for the next fifteen years. It would advantageous if these people would travel through the city of Buffalo. The new bridge may encourage people to travel through Buffalo, rather than through neighboring Niagara Falls. It is also of importance to mention that a new larger bridge would become the most efficient way to enter either country. The PBA explains, “Efficiency is a trademark of our society, and there is no doubt that is what people want. A six lane bridge will increase efficiency.” Either the twin span or the signature span bridge will support six lanes. The building of readily accessible duty free shops, more tollbooths, and customs stations will also increase the fluency of traffic. In addition, Buffalo believes that if a signature bridge is built, it may become a landmark. Two examples of landmark bridges are the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Brooklyn Bridge. These bridges have become a tourist attraction, which offer many benefits. Some benefits are increased revenue for shops, malls, restaurants, and hotels. There is one final reason why a new bridge will be built. That reason is employment. The building of a new bridge would call for over 400 workers. It is possible that this construction would bring people into the area to work, and supply jobs to those who are currently unemployed in Buffalo.
The building of a new bridge will be done. The question is when. A new bridge is of major importance to the city of Buffalo. It will bring many positives, and barely any negatives. Personally, I have always just thought of a bridge as a way to get from point A to point B. However, the idea of new Peace Bridge’s benefits has opened my eyes. The new Peace Bridge may result in a modern day Erie Canal.
Chen, David. “Border War Over The Peace Bridge.” The New York Times.
B1. 27 April 99
The New Millennium Group. “Two Nations One Bridge.” [Online]
http://www.peacebridgevote.com 30 March 2001
The Peace Bridge Authority. “The Peace Bridge.” [Online] www.peacebridge.com/homehtml 1 APRIL 2001.
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