Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the commencement of phase one of the Peace Bridge U.S. Approach Widening Project, following the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authoritys (Peace Bridge Authority) approval of a $1.3 million contract agreement with Western New York-based Oakgrove Construction. Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy attended the groundbreaking in Buffalo, which comes after Governor Cuomos announcement in June of an agreement between New York State and Canada regarding a series of improvement actions to be fast-tracked as part of the Peace Bridge Understanding.
With todays groundbreaking in Buffalo, significant infrastructure improvements on the U.S. Plaza at the Peace Bridge are moving forward, Governor Cuomo said. These projects will improve the flow of traffic, reduce the impact on the adjacent residential neighborhood and create the type of gateway entrance into New York that will enhance the vitality and strength of the region and our State. As our efforts to improve the functionality of the U.S. Plaza and the adjacent connecting roadway system continue, this announcement signals an important step forward and is proof of the progress we are achieving in upgrading the U.S. Plaza.
The bridge approach widening is one of several projects being undertaken by the PBA to address some of the constraints of the U.S. plaza, said PBA Chairman Anthony Annunziata. Im optimistic that this is the first of future announcements by the Authority and our partners in state and federal government regarding actions being taken to make the Peace Bridge crossing work better for our region and the motorists we serve.
The overall Peace Bridge U.S. Approach Widening Project is estimated to be a $13 million construction effort, and will include an additional 215,000 square feet of approach space for U.S.-bound vehicles, through a 500 feet long by 60 feet wide reinforced steel structure and concrete deck addition.
The completed project will improve U.S.-bound traffic flow by providing better NEXUS lane access, increasing queuing space for passenger vehicles during special events and busy times, and amplifying plaza efficiency by separating commercial and auto traffic.
Progress is on the horizon at the Peace Bridge, said PBA Vice Chairman Sam Hoyt. By advancing this project we are making the enhancement of our operational abilities at this important international border crossing a very clear priority.
Phase one is expected to be completed by November 2013. The balance of the project will be completed by the fall of 2014.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, This is the first push to begin the real momentum needed to literally open up the flow of people and goods across the Peace Bridge. This is great progress not only for the local jobs it creates during construction but the economic connectivity and opportunity it delivers over the long term.
Senator Mark Grisanti said, It is great to finally see progress and shovels in the ground at the Peace Bridge. In addition, by moving trucks and cars through the area quicker, this will reduce the amount of air pollution in the surrounding communities. I applaud the PBA and our partners in State, Federal and Canadian Government on a very important first step of many to come for our region.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, Today we are seeing the tangible results of what can happen when we focus on progress at the Peace Bridge. Many projects which are critical to improving plaza efficiency and reducing traffic congestion will soon be underway. I am thankful that we have a Governor who is committed to Western New York, and who was determined to achieve significant progress at the Peace Bridge. The approach widening will help to expedite traffic, and improve NEXUS usage, which will be beneficial to both the United States and Canada.
Governor Cuomo announced an agreement on the Peace Bridge Understanding on June 26, 2013 with Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer, which outlined an aggressive, component project specific plan to move forward on the U.S. Plaza improvements. The agreement outlines at least $150 million and perhaps as much as $180 million in project-related construction over the next few years. It will create 2,725 construction jobs at the bridge by 2016. Included in the $150 million in projects is $35 million in short-term improvements to the American side of the bridge that the authority approved last fall, and an additional $22 million in the NYSDOT Gateway Ramp project. The deal also includes a traffic study that would look at moving some facilities that are currently on the plaza, such as the duty-free facility and the truck x-ray facility elsewhere on the plaza.
The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, a binational bridge authority, has owned and operated the Peace Bridge since 1933. The bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1927, spans the Niagara River between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York, and is a key international border crossing.