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Governor announces progress on Peace Bridge improvements

WBFO News file photo

Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared in Buffalo Saturday to announce progress on two  long-awaited Peace Bridge improvement projects.

Cuomo said the Peace Bridge Authority (PBA) will approve a $20 million project to renovate and expand the U.S. Customs Commercial Building.

The Governor also announced that a preliminary agreement has been reached between New York State and the City of Buffalo regarding the transfer of a two-block portion of Busti Avenue.

"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. "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. I applaud Mayor Brown, Council President Fontana, and Council Member Rivera for their leadership on this momentous project."

The preliminary agreement between the state and city would transfer a two-block area of Busti Avenue, between Vermont Street and Massachusetts Avenue on the West Side for plaza expansion.

According to the Governor 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.

But West Side community activists have been fighting to preserve homes that would be torn down for the expansion project.

Several federal, state and local  leaders are pleased with the announcement.

"The Governor's continued advocacy for Peace Bridge corridor improvements is paying dividends today," said Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority Chairman and EmpireState Development Regional President Sam Hoyt. "These two announcements are tremendously significant and demonstrate a new era of progress in addressing the chronic problem of Peace Bridge congestion."

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."

Buffalo Common Council President Richard Fontana said, "These improvements on the Peace Bridge Plaza, including the plan for Busti Avenue, signify important progress and moving past the status quo. With Governor Cuomo's leadership, we are moving ahead on so many important projects throughout Buffalo that will create jobs, strengthen our economy and ensure a bright future for our city."

Buffalo Common Council Member David Rivera said, "For years I have fought to improve the social and economic health of my district. I have been concerned about the air quality in the Peace Bridge neighborhood and I am pleased that the Governor and the DEC agreed to my request to establish an air pollution monitoring program at this location. I have been concerned about the idling trucks in the neighborhood and I was pleased that the DEC agreed to my request do random checks of idling vehicles on the US plaza. When this land is transferred, Mayor Brown and I have agreed that every penny of the proceeds will be reinvested in the Niagara District and the immediate neighborhood and that, together, working with the community, we will create a program that not only makes significant improvements to the infrastructure in the neighborhood but also addresses the severe asthma and other health problems that our community suffers from."

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."

Senator Tim Kennedy said, "As the economic bonds between Western New York and Southern Ontario grow stronger, it is critical that we take steps toward finally beginning work on the long-overdue renovations at the Peace Bridge. Improved efficiency is needed to ensure this economic artery remains the gateway for commerce and trade in our bi-national region. Progress requires partnership, and that's why Governor Cuomo and Mayor Brown deserve great credit for moving this land transfer forward. Thank you also to leaders like Congressman Higgins who have worked hard to push this project forward."

Senator Mark Grisanti said, "I am proud to be a part of these efforts to put these properties in responsible hands. As Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee I will make it my business to mitigate any immediate impact to the community and continue to protect the environment."

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "I am ecstatic to see real progress finally happening on the U.S. side of the border at the Peace Bridge. I applaud the leadership of Governor Cuomo, Mayor Brown, and the others who have come together to enable this great announcement to take place."

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "Today's announcement is a positive step forward for Buffalo and Western New York. The transfer of this land will help to make the area safer by allowing Peace Bridge traffic to move more efficiently, which will help to reduce emissions and improve the health of Buffalo's west side residents. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo for his tremendous leadership on this important issue and for his ongoing commitment to moving Buffalo forward."

Changes to the Peace Bridge plaza and an expanded Customs area is expected to significantly decrease traffic congestion and facilitate customs processing. 

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.