Originally appeared in the Buffalo News on July 17th, 2012.
Recent articles and opinions have raised several issues that must be examined thoroughly if there is to be informed debate about the Peace Bridge plaza expansion. First is the notion that the expansion is needed for the economic viability of the Sabres and the Bills. So far, $100 million of taxpayer money is in the state budget for the expansion. Notably, the teams themselves have not said that bridge wait times are a problem. Is it worth $100 million, on top of the stadium improvements we are already on the hook for, just to maintain the status quo?
A study by the Binational Tourist Alliance, which includes the Peace Bridge Authority, found that 90 percent of the time there is no wait time at the bridge, and also found that people are not refraining from coming to Western New York because of wait times. Rather, one of the top reasons given for not coming to Western New York was that there is nothing over here people want to do. Wouldn’t the $100 million be better spent addressing that?
The News has also said that expansion will make the crossing more attractive to truckers and draw more commerce to the bridge. Asthma and other diesel-related illnesses are documented as alarmingly high near the bridge. Also, only about 15 percent of the trucks crossing at the bridge are coming to or going from Western New York. The rest are just passing through. Why would we want to attract more truckers who bring nothing to the region but disease? The only “commerce” that takes place at the bridge is toll collecting – of which Western New York gets nothing – and spending at the duty free store – of which Western New York gets nothing. Why would we spend $100 million to get more nothing?
Then there is the notion that because the authority and Department of Environmental Conservation are going to monitor the air quality, residents may find out if the air they breathe is dangerous. A study released in 2011 conducted by researchers associated with the Harvard School of Public Health already confirmed the high levels of toxins present in the air in the Peace Bridge neighborhood.
Western New York does not need another study, we don’t need more truckers and we don’t need to waste $100 million and get nothing in return.
Linda J. DeTine – Buffalo