Peace Bridge traffic would be taken out of Front Park in a construction plan introduced by the state Department of Transportation in a public “scoping” meeting Tuesday in the Porterview Room in the D’Youville College Center.
It was the first step in a yearlong process of studies, comments and approvals for what the DOT is calling the “N.Y. Gateway Connections Improvement Project to the U.S. Peace Bridge Plaza.”
The proposal, which would provide better access between the Peace Bridge and the Niagara Thruway, would eliminate Baird Drive in Front Park.
Under the plan, all Canada-bound traffic would approach the bridge via a new access road off Porter Avenue, which would join exiting traffic on the current ramp, called Ramp A, from the northbound I-190.
Tom Donohue, the DOT’s consultant project manager, said this plan would end backups at the traffic light where Ramp A and Baird Drive meet.
Incoming traffic from Canada, meanwhile, would be taken to the northbound I-190 via a new bridge instead of taking Baird Drive to Porter Avenue to reach the I-190 entrance. Access to the southbound I-190 would remain unchanged. Local streets would be reached via the current roadway that loops behind the Peace Bridge Plaza.
One of the benefits, Donohue explained, would be to “reduce the use of local streets by interstate traffic.”
Officials said the scoping process will continue until mid-July and that the DOT will accept written comments until July 11 at 100 Seneca St., Buffalo, NY 14203, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A draft environmental impact study would be ready by November, followed by public hearings in December and a final environment study next February.
If approved, the design and construction phase would begin next May.
Maria Lehman, the state’s project manager for the Peace Bridge, said after the formal presentation that construction would take about a year, would cost $20 million to $22 million and would be paid for by state and federal funds.
She added that all the land involved in the project is owned by the DOT or the Thruway.
“The ingress and egress as it stands right now is very complicated,” Lehman said. “It looks like spaghetti. When you have a backup at the intersection and trucks are backed up, it’s very difficult to get in and out.”
After the presentation, Tim Tielman, executive director of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo, History, Architecture and Culture, questioned the need for the project.
“This situation has been there since the Thruway was constructed,” he said. “There’s been a 2 percent annual decline in traffic on the bridge since the ’60s. In the light of that, wouldn’t it be a better use of public funds to not do this at all?”
Lehman suggested that traffic on the bridge was likely to increase as the economy improves.
“From a purely engineering standpoint,” she added, “it’s two ramps, two bridges and some pavement in between. It’s nothing very exciting.”