"The progress we are making on the construction at the Peace Bridge Plaza here in Buffalo proves that government on all levels is working for New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said in a prepared statement.
Buffalo's Early News and WBEN.com looked at the expansion plans Monday with a series of live interviews
On The WBEN Liveline
Attorney Richard Berger
Campaign for Greater Buffalo..
Cong. Brian Higgins
David Rivera, Niagara Dist.
"We are moving forward quickly on these necessary improvements so that we can create jobs and ease congestion for the many vehicles that travel through this busy international border crossing."
In his 2012 State of the State Address, Governor Cuomo proposed improvements for the U.S. Peace Bridge plaza. As part of the New York Works Initiative that was passed in the 2012-2013 state budget by the New York State Legislature, $15 million was allocated for the expansion of the U.S. Peace Bridge plaza and related enhancements, including community projects.
The renovated and expanded Customs commercial building will significantly decrease traffic congestion and facilitate customs processing. In addition, the construction of the customs building will create hundreds of new jobs and revitalize the local economy. The new building provides a platform for one government face at the border through a more efficient operational layout and tighter integration amongst key federal inspection agencies. Since the Peace Bridge is one of the busiest commercial crossings on the northern border, it is necessary for New York to have the technological infrastructure for advanced targeting of commercial shipments destined for the United States. The federal enforcement agencies will also have the improved ability to rapidly make decisions before trucks arrive at the border resulting in better security and reduced delay times in the commercial lanes.
Final design of the U.S. Customs Commercial Building renovations will begin later this month and conclude by next spring. The construction bid process will take place in summer 2013. Construction will commence in fall 2013 and is anticipated to take 18-24 months. Various green design standards and energy-efficiency upgrades are planned for the $20 million project, including the installation of solar panels on the building's roof area.
New York State and the City of Buffalo have also reached a preliminary agreement regarding the transfer of a two-block portion of Busti Avenue, between Vermont Street and Massachusetts Avenue. Located on the west side of Buffalo, this portion has long been considered for inclusion in plaza renovation efforts to allow for much more convenient and faster entry and exit for vehicles. The final sale price of Busti Avenue will be determined by appraisal. Busti Avenue will be purchased with state funds and ultimately transferred to the PBA for renovations to the U.S. Peace Bridge Plaza.
Mayor Brown and council members have agreed that all of the proceeds from the transfer of this land will be dedicated exclusively to improvements to the immediate neighborhood surrounding the Peace Bridge.
The Peace Bridge is the busiest car and freight crossing between Canada and the United States. It is estimated that 74,000 New York State jobs and nearly 17.2 billion in yearly statewide sales income and federal taxes are contingent on traffic flowing over the Peace Bridge.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "Adding capacity and predictability at our border with Southern Ontario opens up a flood of economic opportunity for Western New York. Time and again Governor Cuomo pairs leadership and cooperation as a means to make things happen. For decades there has been talk of progress at the Peace Bridge, this Governor brings long-deserved and greatly needed action to the table."
Mayor Byron Brown said, "We have great momentum and progress in our city right now. From the medical campus to the waterfront, we see it happening right before our eyes. And Governor Cuomo has played a lead role in Buffalo's rebirth by bringing people together and by working together to get things done."