Tag Archives: Peace Bridge

ICYMI

1 Jul

Not Yours.

 

1. There won’t be a new Peace Bridge. After what – 12, 13 years‘ worth of planning, threats, lies, and nonsense, the aging span won’t have a modern or signature companion span. The real signature of Buffalo is our inability and unwillingness to change anything, ever.  In other words, Buffalo’s real signature bridge is the existing 1912 span of steel – a symbol of past glories and past progress. What we will be getting is a newer inspection plaza – but not so big that it upsets any of the people who made the conscious decision to purchase real estate within walking distance of a major interstate highway and multilane international car and truck crossing (see: “coming to the nuisance“) .  A prediction I made three years ago has finally come true.  Lesson: in WNY, never bet on progress.

2. The Erie Canal terminus food shack is opening today at 1:30.  Believe it or not, elected officials such as Byron Brown (he who is single-handedly blocking construction of a restaurant at the Naval Museum next door) and Chris Collins (who detests everything and everyone) will be there to celebrate and cheer the historic opening of a building that is dwarfed by Little League clubhouses throughout the country.

3. Congratulations to Nick Mendola and his F.C. Buffalo Blitzers for the great turnout the other night, and for winning the “Lord Bedlington Cup” in a friendly match against the Bedlington Terriers. I regret not having been able to attend, but hope to check out a game or two in the near future.

4. There was another great turnout last night at the Bisons game for recovering Buffalo Police officer Gary Sengbusch.  Just weeks ago, people were excited that he was in any way responsive. He’s on the way to recovery and last night’s game was a huge fundraiser for him.  There’s something to be said about injured Americans needing a fundraiser in order to pay medical bills and rehabilitation costs, but let’s just be happy that Mr. Sengbusch is doing well.

Do You Remember Tor-Buff-Chester?

16 Nov

This piece, written by UB student Brendan Ryan appeared in yesterday’s Buffalo News, and it’s absolutely correct.  For some reason, we exclude southern Ontario and Toronto from discussions about our regional future, much to everyone’s mutual detriment.

…why is it that we often fail to even consider our nearness to Toronto among that list? Toronto and Southern Ontario are bursting at the seams and the Buffalo Niagara region is choosing to not take part in this growth.

Where is the political will to harness it and usher it over the border and why is this seemingly not a priority? What are our elected officials doing to foster relationships with leadership on the other side of the border? In an economic environment in which regions compete for the firms and industries that will help them to grow and become more vibrant, it is imperative to capitalize on assets that make a region unique and that can provide an advantage to businesses considering locating there.

Western New York’s direct line to Canada’s financial capital is an asset that no other region in the country can claim, yet it is almost completely ignored. We need to begin by exploring and discussing what we can gain from Southern Ontario and what we have to offer them. Southern Ontario has a diverse economy with industry clusters in aerospace, financial services, information technology, life sciences, tourism, fashion, design and a wealth of other areas. With a little imagination one can envision our region as a center for logistics between Southern Ontario, the Midwest and the East Coast.

This is absolutely obtainable and only one of the possible methods for evolving a symbiotic, cross-border, regional economy.

Part of this is due to cross-border travel hassles and the various rules and regulations surrounding residency and doing business in each respective country.  I’ve written before about the real need for a Schengen-type agreement between the US and Canada, whereby immigration rules were harmonized and there was true freedom of movement of people, goods, and jobs between our two countries.  Unfortunately, we didn’t even have the political will to cobble together a shared border management agreement for the Peace Bridge, so the likelihood of a North American Schengen is nil.

But the silence from our local political and business communities about better integrating our economy with that of Ontario is unfortunately deafening.

I Blame the Comintern and the Common Tern

5 Jun

Now that public meeting attendees have selected the three-arch Peace Bridge expansion span as their favorite, we can no doubt eagerly await the angry press conferences and lawsuits from proponents of either one of the other two proposed spans.

Meanwhile, traffic along the most direct WNY highway-to-highway border crossing – the one that doesn’t end at a 90 degree angle on the US side – has routine multiple-hour delays on a weekly basis.

Blame the common tern.

A Tale of Two Cities

16 May

I woke up recently in a new place, and was a bit groggy and confused, as sometimes happens when sleep still pervades despite the body’s vertical position. I opened the door, walked outside, and was struck by the dry blazing heat even at the early hour of the morning. Sand and dust filled the air, blowing in waves that sting the eyes. And what’s that smell? The thick black smoke in the distance is further evidence that the distinctive odor is burning trash, a smell one never forgets once enjoyed. I grab a cup of coffee, stare out to the horizon, and listen to the background noise of car traffic and gun fire in the distance. Pop pop pop. Was I back in Iraq? Baghdad? Kirkuk? No, now I remember. El Paso, Texas.

There are large sections of this country where being a border town is not an asset. El Paso, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, is such a place.  While I was in El Paso recently Jaurez had 70 murders in 3 days, as various drug cartels, local police, federales, and the Mexican army fight for key smuggling routes to get narcotics to the United States. The extreme level of violence is not a matter of hyperbole – there were 1600 bodies found last year in a city only a bit larger than Buffalo. In fact, just randomly checking the news today, five bodies were found, including two decapitated men dressed posthumously in women’s underwear. STRATFOR, a private intelligence firm based in Austin, recently declared Mexico a failed state, a la Afghanistan. It later pulled back from that assessment, only because Mexico City still controls the central and southern part of the country – Mexico’s northern border region remains a free for all. That the violence has not spread more over the border (kidnappings are up some, murders less so) should not inspire confidence that everything is fine.

In most places in the world, borders between countries are places to be militarized, guarded and tense; a fact we often fail to appreciate in Buffalo’s Peace Bridge saga. The biggest threat to the West Side is vehicle exhaust, not invasion or the spill-over of drug smuggler violence. Buffalo cross border challenges include reducing traffic and fighting paperwork; Buffalo Business First’s special report this week is a focus on US companies selling more products in Canada, and convincing Canadian companies to set up shop in Niagara County. Yes, it not as convenient as it used to be to just run over to Fort Erie for some Chinese Food, but overall, we have good problems.

The Peace Bridge Post for 2010

29 Jan

[HTML1]

Yes, we need a new Peace Bridge.

Why?

Because the 90 year-old steel thing we have now is unsafe.

I realize that we’re talking about a companion span and not a replacement, but a replacement wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings now, would it?

All done discussion about Peace Bridge. You go build now.

Otherwise, we may end up with a Lake Champlain Bridge situation:

[HTML2]

The Common Tern Memorial International Crossing (aka Peace Bridge)

15 Dec

Governor Paterson’s office has released five alternate bridge designs (.pdf) from which to choose and reject, and about which to argue.

Thank God they all contain the words “Signature Bridge”. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be signature bridges. Or something. I’m pretty sure we’ll still be talking about this in 2019.

Peace Bridge Some More

25 Aug

Peace Bridge, Peace Bridge, Peace Bridge.

I’m disappointed to learn that Homeland Security under Obama has agreed with the Bush Administration’s conclusions and put the kibosh on Shared Border Management. Seriously, I think this is a major mistake on Obama’s part. It’s stupid.

This means that the issue of a new plaza on the New York side to accommodate the new bridge is raised anew.

It also means that our local delegation to Congress will have a lot to say about this project in the coming days and months. Word is that Slaughter is angry, but Higgins will remain positive.

A spokesman for Common Tern (D-OMGLOOKOUT!) was unavailable for comment.

Does Anybody Remember Peace Bridge?

23 Aug

The last update to the Peace Bridge Expansion project website dates to September 2008.  That’s almost a year ago.

I guess things are really moving along.

Oversell at the Times

29 Mar

The New York Times published a piece a few days ago entitled, “Reinventing America’s Cities”. It recounts how during the ’80s and ’90s, while the US was in full Reaganomics-small-government-is-good-government mode, Europe was building things like an efficient high-speed rail network, and doing so in an environmentally sensitive way. The piece mentions how several European cities are contemplating change.

It then turns to US cities and brings up the New Deal’s WPA and Eisenhower’s interstate program as examples of our country making that sort of groundbreaking change.

The problem in America is not a lack of ideas. It is a tendency to equate any large-scale government construction project, no matter how thoughtful, with the most brutal urban renewal tactics of the 1950s. One result has been that pioneering projects that skillfully blend basic infrastructure with broader urban needs like housing and park space are usually killed in their infancy. Another is that we now have an archaic and grotesquely wasteful federal system in which upkeep for roads, subways, housing, public parkland and our water supply are all handled separately.

With money now available to invest again in such basic needs, I’d like to look at four cities representing a range of urban challenges and some of the plans available to address them. Though none of the plans are ideal as they stand today (and some of them represent only the germ of an idea), evaluated and addressed together as part of a coordinated effort, they could begin to form a blueprint for making our cities more efficient, sustainable and livable.

  • New Orleans: needs to rebuild almost from scratch.
  • Los Angeles: give the Los Angeles River its natural flow and riverbank again, and the Metro should run along Wilshire Blvd.
  • the Bronx: demolish some of the Bruckner and Sheridan Expwy, freeing up 28 acres of land for housing
  • Buffalo: don’t expand the Peace Bridge plaza, thus requiring the demolition of 5 blocks’ worth of homes on the West Side.
  • Regardless of how you feel about expansion of the Peace Bridge plaza (I favor shared border management, with all inspection carried out on the Fort Erie side of the river), I fail to see how that would be a “reinvention” of Buffalo. Halting yet another in a long line of bad ideas? Sure. A victory for that neighborhood? Naturally. But reinventing the city?

    Seems a bit of an oversell.

    Shared Border Management

    27 Mar

    Shared Border Management is back on the agenda under the Obama Administration. Under the plan, US-bound travelers at, say, the Peace Bridge, would go through US screening while still on the Canadian side, before they hit US soil. The big sticking points under the Bush Administration had to do with (1) the arming of US guards on Canadian soil; and (2) US demands that vehicles making a U-turn before reaching the screening area could be stopped, and its occupants questioned and fingerprinted.

    Several alternatives had been presented to the US by the Canadians to enable the US to maintain sovereignty over their inspection areas – the airport method (e.g., you go through pre-screening upon departing the airport in Toronto or Nassau), the embassy model (de jure jurisdiction), and an actual land swap. The US nixed them all.

    Now, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of State and our former Senator Hillary Clinton are taking a second look at Shared Border Management, and this time it might actually happen.

    There are obviously tough negotiations that the US and Canada need to engage in so that US inspectors can make arrests or implement other US entry regulations and policies, but it’s not impossible. I think that concerns about security aren’t falling on deaf ears, and moving forward on this project and these negotiations will directly benefit Buffalo, and hopefully an expanded, new plaza will benefit all travelers at the Peace Bridge.

    Now, about expanding volume at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, which routinely has the longest wait times of any local crossing…

    Photo by Flickr user Scott Kinmartin