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Environmental Advocates Seek Release of Bridge Data

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Environmental advocates are seeking the release of air quality data from the Public Bridge Authority as the Peace Bridge planning process continues.

There was a line of trucks waiting to cross the Peace Bridge Tuesday. That's nothing unusual. It's something the residents living in the surrounding neighborhood deal with every day.

But as talks move forward on expanding the Peace Bridge, there is growing concern about the impact these trucks are having on the health of residents.

"To date, there has not been a serious discussion of the health issues that pertain to this area," said Dr. Jamson Lwebuga-Mukasa, an associate professor of medicine at UB. He blames the truck traffic for the unusually high rate of respiratory problems in the West Side neighborhood.

"Forty-six percent of households in this area have at least one asthmatic person or have someone suffering from another respiratory disease," Lwebuga-Mukasa said. "That compares to 26 percent on the East Side."

And that's why the Buffalo West Side Environmental Defense Fund held a news conference yesterday to ask the Public Bridge Authority to openly share data on the air quality surrounding the Peace Bridge.

"Certainly, this will be public information and we would prefer that they share all of the data rather than selected data, which unfortunately occurred during the last go-round," said Mark Mitkovski, a fund board member.

That last go-round was a reference to the contentious plan to build a twin span to the Peace Bridge. The West Side Environmental Defense Fund was the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that was later dropped when the Bridge Authority agreed to a full environmental review of all bridge options.

Mitkovski said right now his group is ruling out any further lawsuits.

"I think there's been more than enough legal action on this issue," Mitkovski said. "We certainly are not here to call for more legal action. What we seeking is an open process -- a sharing of data."

Mitkovski would like the Public Bridge Authority to release its air quality and truck traffic data before December 7th. That's when the next public meeting on Peace Bridge expansion is scheduled.

Mitkovski supports keeping all bridge options open, especially those which would move truck traffic out of the residential neighborhoods of the West Side.