Legislative Status Report - July 2012
The location of the Buffalo Niagara region along the Canadian border is ideal for both tourism and economic development purposes. It provides a direct line of commerce to Toronto, Ohio, New York City and the Southern United States. Our region needs to capitalize on this geographic vantage point to a higher extent than is currently occurring by further opening the border to tourism and trade while leveraging it as an international logistics gateway to attract investment from around the world.
There has been much discussion about the Peace Bridge border crossing in the past few months, with little progress being made. Below is a breakdown of the newsworthy items and what they mean for the Peace Bridge:
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will begin monitoring the air quality of areas surrounding the Peace Bridge border crossing in August. In addition, uniformed DEC officers will begin taking enforcement actions against truckers who violate current idling regulations (idling for more than five minutes after primary inspection).
Two air quality monitors will be placed near the bridge, one upwind in the area around Front Park and one downwind on the east side of Busti Avenue in the vicinity of the now-vacant Episcopal Church Home. According to the DEC, the monitors will measure fine particulate matter and black carbon. In addition, a meteorological station will be installed at one of the two monitoring sites.
The decision to begin an air monitoring study is in response to local resident concerns, especially if the plaza is to expand. The authority is also scheduled to report traffic data sometime in mid-July that would include projections on border crossing when the US plaza expansion occurs.
Busti Avenue Houses
The Bridge Authority (formally the Buffalo & Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority) owns a row of houses on Busti Avenue that were scheduled to be demolished in early June. The Campaign for Greater Buffalo History, Architecture and Culture preservation group obtained a temporary restraining order in mid-June to prevent the Authority from executing the scheduled demolition.
A Bridge Authority spokesman said the authority wants to demolish the row of houses to not only rid the neighborhood of blight but to accommodate future plaza renovations. The spokesman also added that the authority had plans to demolish the houses even if they did not proceed with an expanded plaza plan.
On July 3, 2012, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he would be joining in with other state officials to urge the Obama Administration to choose the Peace Bridge as one of two truck pre-clearance pilot programs in the United States. If selected, the pre-clearance program would allow truck's cargo to be screened in Fort Erie, Ont. before crossing the Peace Bridge into the US. According the Governor, 90% of truck traffic is expected to be cleared at the initial check. Any additional inspections would be conducted on the Canadian side as well.
The pre-clearance program is part of the "Beyond the Border" agreement between the US and Canada as announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Harper. The agreement was created to encourage more cross border trade and commerce between our two nations.
The Amherst Chamber of Commerce continues to support the development of policies that encourage a faster, more cost effective transportation of goods across the US/Canada border in WNY. In this regard, we support the efforts of Congressman Brian Higgins to expedite the construction of a new bridge plaza. The Chamber also supports Senator Charles Schumer's efforts to enhance cross-border movement, such as the pre-clearance pilot program, along all of New York's northern borders and the WNY Regional Economic Development Council's efforts to create and maintain a bi-national, intermodal logistics hub in WNY as part of its strategic vision.