BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Plans to build a new Peace Bridge are on hold, but that's part of the newest plan to move forward.
This week, Congressman Brian Higgins explained the proposal to build a smaller American inspection plaza, which would help alleviate some of the congestion problems on the Peace Bridge.
The new plaza would still increase the number of inspection booths to 25, but it would be significantly cheaper ($60 million compared to $350 million in the previous proposal) and cover a much smaller area (25 acres instead of 38 acres).
Additionally, Congressman Higgins said it will be less disruptive to the West Side of Buffalo, because only 8 properties will be demolished instead of 108.
"This moves us forward on a project that's been talked about for over two decades," Higgins said. "We are confident that this is a way forward that everybody can agree with."
The project would be assisted by a new agreement between the American and Canadian governments that would allow American agents to pre-screen commercial trucks on the Canadian side, which has more space.
"Chances look darn good that both the Canadian and American governments will agree that we can pre-inspect trucks on the Canadian side of the bridge," Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said.
Schumer said the proposal has the backing of the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"The good news about this solution is that the only thing left to be done is for Canada and America to agree," Schumer said. "The money is all there. We need no more appropriations."
Although the Peace Bridge Authority says it has abandoned plans for a new span -- at least for now -- Higgins and Schumer said they will both continue to fight for a new bridge after the plaza is completed.
"We need a bridge," Higgins said. "It's important to the economy of Buffalo and Western New York. Every aspect of the Western New York economy is tied to the added customer base in Southern Ontario."
The Peace Bridge Authority released the following statement:
The approval and support of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin is integral to the eventual achievement of real, attainable, and financially viable improvements at the Peace Bridge corridor. By signaling his willingness to consider and advance the implementation of innovative border management solutions at our crossing, the federal government has effectively provided a new path forward for this very challenging project.
The Authority welcomes the opportunity to move ahead with a plaza design concept that meets the goals of congestion-relief and enhanced security. We now await official written concurrence from the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration. This is a positive development for the prospects of Peace Bridge port enhancement and could lead to much activity in the coming months.
Both Higgins and Schumer said they expect construction to start on the new plaza within 12 months with completion within 3 years.