BUFFALO, NY -- If your travels take you across the Peace Bridge, some major changes in traffic patterns approaching and leaving the bridge are now in place on the American side.
After years of planning construction, and more than $56 million spent, elements of the “Gateway Connections Improvement Project” are now being implemented and will continue to develop in the coming weeks and months.
While they won’t reduce wait times for clearing customs, the “improvements” are aimed at easing traffic flow in areas around the bridge, by pushing cars onto expressways instead of city streets.
Baird Drive, which has long served as the main approach to the bridge from Porter Avenue, has now been closed and is being removed, as part of a plan to restore nearly four acres to historic Front Park.
Instead, traffic will travel west from the park and enter the bridge via a new dedicated ramp.
“You’d really be hard pressed to say you're against what we're doing today," said NYS Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo), while noting that thousands of cars will no longer travel through the middle of the Olmsted designed park on their way to and from the bridge.
In addition, a new ramp which will allow traffic coming off the bridge direct access to the Northbound Niagara Section of the Thruway is scheduled to open in about a month.
However, some residents say it really does nothing to help them in their fight to reduce truck traffic on the bridge, which idles day and night, spewing exhaust into their neighborhoods.
“It's lipstick on a pig,” said Kathleen Mecca of the Niagara Gateway Columbus Park Association, which has long expressed concern over the exhaust from idling trucks spewing into their neighborhood, which they claim is deleterious to their health.
“You've got to stop the pollution,” Mecca told WGRZ-TV. You can only do that by reducing the amount of truck traffic, or moving the truck traffic (to another bridge)," Mecca said.
“Nobody is trying to say this is a prescription for all the ills of the Peace Bridge Neighborhood,” said Ryan. But if this is a multi-step process, this is one of the steps we are taking that will have a positive impact not only on health, but on quality of life and traffic flow."
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 on Your Side reporter Dave Mckinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2