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Public gets look at bridge options for Niagara Falls

Curious members of the public got to look at three options Wednesday night for a new bridge system to replace spans that currently link downtown Niagara Falls to Green and Goat Islands.

The bridges linking the mainland to Green Island, and then Green Island to Goat Island, are more than a century old and, according to officials, are in need of replacement. 

The public got to look at three early designs: a precast concrete arch span similar to what is there now, a steel tied-arch span and a steel multi-girder system. 

Mark Thomas, Director of the Western District of New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, revealed that his office favors the precast arch system but added that public comment was still being sought. He added that the project remains in a very early phase.

"It requires a number of approvals," Thomas said. "The Army Corps of Engineers has to permit this. The International Joint Commission, which regulates the water flow in the Great Lakes system, has to issue permits to us. We have to meet very stringent environmental requirements."

Planners also need to finalize the funds for the project, which is expected to cost in the range of $24 to $26 million. Money for the final design and construction phases, Thomas noted, is not yet in place.

The most talked-about part of the project is the planned temporary redirection of water away from the American falls to allow construction. Officials say it will create a tourism sensation.

"This is a tourist town," said Niagara Falls Council Chair Andrew Tuoma. "We're very proud of our background in tourism and how we attract people here to Niagara Falls. I think, personally, in addition to making this safer, more (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, we also can attract more visitors here during this time frame."

Work on the bridges, including the redirection of water, is not expected to happen until 2019 at the earliest. Tourism officials point out that even when the American falls is dried up, the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side will still flow and the Maid of the Mist will still be in operation.

The public has until February 10 to submit public comments. For more information, follow this link.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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