Originally Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2003
"We've been to three meetings, and we never saw that the buffer would be outside the area," said Linda DeTine of Columbus Parkway.
"Well, you've seen it now," replied Vincent Lamb, the project manager for the Peace Bridge expansion's environmental review.
This announcement illustrates the no-win situation the City of Buffalo finds itself in with regards to this bridge.
The plaza as it exists now, reduced Front Park to little more than a softball field; and the new possibility that a full block of Columbus Parkway might have to be demolished to serve as a buffer against pollution is unacceptable for the city from an economic standpoint. This street is probably the nicest and most stable neighborhood remaining on the far West Side (Richmond Avenue to the river).
Relocating the plaza below Porter Avenue (7th Street, Chili Avenue) to save Columbus would clear a declining and ugly area while saving a nicer one; but smacks of the great urban renewal projects of the seventies. It would relocate thousands of people without any likely improvement in their eventual living standards and would probably seriously damage lower Niagara Street's commercial strip (because of the loss of so much population).
I am more and more convinced that any new bridge should hit landfall in Tonawanda. It's not a heavily populated area, it's mostly industrial, it's convenient to the I-190 as well as the I-290, and the Town of Tonawanda is actively seeking it. The drawbacks are that this is the widest part of the Niagara River (more expensive bridge) and no one knows what the people in Canada think of it. That's a pretty damned nice neighborhood on the river over there.
Of all the bridges from Canada in Buffalo-Niagara (Peace Bridge, International Railroad Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge, Lewiston-Queenston Bridge) only the railroad bridge is demonstrating tangible economic benefits. The Canadian National Railway is expanding its yard in Lackawanna to break down rail lumber shipments to truck-sized cargoes. This has some potential to create jobs and is the only border-related economic progress I've read about (other than customs-related businesses).
The cargo carried by trucks on the other bridges is already "broken-down" into customer-specified amounts. You see, NAFTA has done away with the necessity for Canadians to maintain an American presence (likewise vice-versa). Any former advantage to being on an international border has decreased significantly. The projected increases in cross-border trade may very well be true or even understated but they only translate into more traffic heading down the 190 towards the Thruway.
Mark Twain, in Life on the Mississippi, tells the tale of the people of Hannibal, Missouri and how they expected their settlement to grow automatically into a city when the railroad came through, and then were baffled when most of the trains went right by, as the riverboats had done before them. 1
Ripping apart the West Side of Buffalo for economic development that has never been defined and probably can't be makes no sense - most of the trucks will go right by, as the trucks had done before them -- just like in Hannibal.
1 The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs