Wed October 16, 2013
Peace Bridge plan aims to get traffic off city streets
With some construction work already underway at the Peace Bridge, Albany is pushing hard for another major project.
On Tuesday, state DOT officials held a public meeting in the Connecticut Street Armory about the Gateway plan to move traffic directly between the bridge and the Thruway Niagara Section and eventually close Baird Drive through Front Park. It would mean cars and trucks would be able to get onto the Thruway in either direction without going on city streets.
"It will eliminate the conflicting traffic movement. If you're going to the 190 North, you're going left. If you're going to the 190 South, you're turning right. So that, inherently, creates a conflict on the plaza," said Peace Bridge General Manager Ron Reinas.
"It provides a ramp with direct access from the U.S. plaza to the northbound 190," said Program Manager Maria Lehman.
But there are concerns among residents in the neighborhood and the Clean Air Coalition wants to be sure residents have a voice. Director Erin Heaney says they are directly involved in what happens.
"[For] this particular project, which is really phase one of the Peace Bridge expansion project, they are going to spend $22 million. That's a lot of money and the community has a right to be involved. And it took us having a rally outside the headquarters of the Department of Transportation to get them to actually extend the comment period the last time. They've done a little bit better this time but they really need to be doing much more to make sure the people in this neighborhood have a say in what this project looks like," Heaney said.
Because the entire project is off land belonging to the Peace Bridge Authority, the roads and bridges are being planned by DOT and the Thruway Authority. The Authority isn't directly involved since none of the concrete would be poured on its property, although it should make traffic flow better and potentially generate less air pollution.
There will be another meeting in mid-December on the draft environmental impact statement. Planners want the statement approved in April with actual construction starting late next year to be finished probably in early 2016
There is a small construction project underway right now at the bridge, part of a much larger plan to widen the bridge as it approaches Customs and Immigration booths to move traffic more quickly. That is scheduled to be finished next fall.