FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2004

Schumer: Shared Border Plan Will Save Hundreds Of Homes, Make Buffalo A Draw For Commerce And Tourism

Now that US and Canadian governments have agreed to move all Customs facilities at the Peace Bridge to Canada, Schumer says it's time to make it official in Federal Highway Administration's Environmental Impact Statement After years of working with all levels of government, Schumer details Shared Border Management agreement with Canada that will make Buffalo more attractive for commerce and tou

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today stood with local business, elected and community leaders to announce a benchmark agreement between the United States and Canada to move all primary and secondary Customs operations to the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge.

Schumer also urged the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the lead agency in the federal process that oversees the bridge expansion project, to officially endorse a reduced US plaza in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), and released a letter he is sending today to FHWA Administrator Mary Peters asking her to make the change official.

Schumer said the border plan, announced Friday by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, will avert the need to build a massive truck plaza on the US side of the Peace Bridge that would have taken over 100 West Side properties. With Customs operations relocated to Fort Erie, Schumer said that idling trucks will no longer have to sit on Buffalo's residential streets and the historic Front Park will have a chance to be restored. Schumer said the plan will also ease the traffic problems that have plagued motorists and ground commerce to a standstill.

"This may be the first time all the key players in the Peace Bridge issue have come together behind something," Schumer said. "That's because this agreement is good for commerce; it's good for tourism; it's good for business, the environment, the parks and the neighborhood. Shared Border Management is the best hope we have to finally move the Peace Bridge project forward."

Up until now, the FHWA has not officially included a reduced US plaza design in its environmental study as a "reasonable alternative." Schumer said that now that the US and Canada have agreed on a Shared Border Management plan that will move all of the plaza infrastructure to Canada, the reduced plaza design should be put in the DEIS as the top option.

"Now that the top officials in the US and Canada have said we're moving everything to the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge," Schumer said, "the smaller US plaza isn't just a 'reasonable alternative,' it's the only way to go."

Currently, the DEIS includes three official options that are deemed "reasonable alternatives." The Shared Border Management alternative is only mentioned in the study as a possibility for the future, but it is not fully developed like the other three. The first alternative being considered would expand the existing plaza to 22 acres, would knock down the Episcopal Church Home and leave 125 properties between the idling trucks and Niagara Street. The second current option would move the plaza to the north, expand it to 50 acres and require the taking of 120 properties. This alternative would also occupy a substantial portion of the waterfront along the Niagara River. The third, required in all federal environmental studies, is a "no build" option that would leave the existing plaza "as is."

Schumer said that Friday's announcement by Ridge and McLellan to move all Customs facilities to Canada requires the inclusion of the reduced plaza in the federal study. The agreement includes making the Peace Bridge crossing a pilot project that could influence the way Shared Border Management is utilized along the entire northern border. It also includes a reciprocal arrangement that would move Customs facilities to the US side of the border at either the Lewiston-Queenston crossing, or the border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge. Schumer was joined by Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello, Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop, Peace Bridge Authority Chair Paul Koessler and Vice Chair John Lopinski , Canadian Member of Parliament John Maloney, Buffalo-Niagara Partnership President Dr. Andrew Rudnick, New York State Senator Byron Brown, New York State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, Buffalo Common Councilmember Nick Bonifacio, representatives of the Canadian Consulate General, Jeff Belt and Deborah Lynn Williams of the New Millennium Group.

A copy of Schumer’s letter is attached.

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