As Pre-Inspection Begins, Pollution Concerns Remain
Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Next week, a pilot program allowing trucks entering the United States on the Peace Bridge to be pre-screened on the Canadian side of the border will begin. The goal of the plan is to alleviate commercial congestion on the bridge, and reduce the air pollution that traffic causes.
But not everyone is excited.
"The issue is not about moving truck traffic. The issue is about the concentration of toxins and diesel exhaust," said Kathleen Mecca. Mecca is leading the fight to address childhood asthma rates in the West side neighborhood surrounding the bridge.
Mecca says that the Public Bridge Authority has told her pre-inspection will do nothing to improve the air quality on the west side. Meanwhile, Senator Charles Schumer says that health concerns were one of the reasons he pushed for pre-inspection.
"Health concerns are very important, it's one of the three reasons (for pre-inspection on the Canadian side of the border). It was jobs, people not losing their homes, and the third was the health of the people in West Buffalo," Schumer said.
"This change will reduce the health risks, because these trucks, instead of idling for hours and emitting things in to the air will not, and furthermore when they idle they'll idle on the less populated Canadian side instead of right in the middle of the western part of Buffalo."
Tuesday, Buffalo Common Councilmember Joe Golombek will call for an investigation in to why the idea of moving all commercial traffic to the Lewiston-Queenston bridge was raised, and the abandoned by the federal government. Mecca says she is left wondering as well.
"The federal government already knows that the Lewiston-Queenston crossing can be expanded," Mecca said. "They also know that what is happening to residents here on Buffalo's west side is not going to happen to residents in Lewiston-Queenton."
Schumer meanwhile remains confident that pre-inspection is the solution to many Peace Bridge problems. "We're making big progress there, and I would worry about any further change that would delay traffic again."
The pre-inspection pilot program is scheduled to begin February 24th.