West side rep says bridge traffic being prioritized over neighborhood health

Mar 3, 2014

An opponent of Peace Bridge expansion says government is working to run more trucks across the bridge and not doing enough to protect the health of West Side residents damaged by diesel truck exhaust.

Credit File photo

The Peace Bridge recently awarded a contract for a major project aimed at speeding traffic. The "throat project" involves widening the bridge from the point where it makes the final turn to the U.S. plaza to allow more cars to pass trucks coming to Customs. That should allow more cars to use the NEXUS lanes, now often closed off by traffic stalled on the bridge.

This is one of several bridge projects and that's not supposed to happen individually, according to Kathy Mecca with the Columbus Park Association, a longtime critic of bridge expansion and of the way different agencies are doing different projects, like the State DOT building new ramps to the Thruway.

"If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is absolutely related. We had a State Supreme Court ruling by Justice Eugene Fahey that ruled against segmenting projects," Mecca says.

Mecca is referring to the throat project, the ramps, and the Customs building. She says they will bring even more asthma connected to truck diesel exhaust to the West Side and government isn't doing enough about that.

Mecca says medical experts who have studied air quality in the neighborhood have determined "beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the exhaust is the cause of residents' health problems. She says the new pilot project of checking trucks in Fort Erie before they cross the bridge doesn't make much difference because the association's experts say the polluted air will blow across the river.

Mecca says there needs to be an overall study at what to do about traffic moving across the Niagara River that includes all of the border bridges.

"We have to look at alternatives. What those alternatives end up being, I don't know," Mecca said.