Canada snubs private Fort Erie bridge plans … again

FORT ERIE — Transport Canada is reminding a private company that it cannot go ahead with plans to build a new commercial crossing at the Fort Erie, Ont.-Buffalo border.

The Ambassador Niagara Bridge Group — which is a subsidiary of the private Ambassador Bridge company in Windsor-Detroit — has been proposing a new $250 million truck bridge along the International Railroad Bridge, about two miles north of the Peace Bridge.

Last year, the Canadian government stepped in and announced that a law on the books since 1923 thwarts any plans of a privately-owned secondary international border crossing. At the time, Transport Minister Jean-Claude Lapierre confirmed the validity of the Peace Bridge Authority’s exclusive right to operate any vehicle bridge within 10 km of the existing crossing.

Ambassador officials will continue to challenge the Peace
Bridge’s franchise at the Fort Erie-Buffalo border

That didn’t seem to deter the Detroit-based bridge company from pursuing its plans to build another private bridge in the region. In February, local media reported that Ambassador Niagara opened an office for engineers and consultants in the business district of Fort Erie.

According to the Buffalo News, Assistant Deputy Minister Ron R. Sully recently sent a letter to Ambassador Niagara officials confirming that the government refuses to accept the company’s proposal and will not participate in any necessary environmental assessments.

But James B. Kane, regional director for Ambassador Niagara, told the Buffalo News the company would go ahead with environmental work anyway and would submit its report to Canadian and U.S. agencies in February 2006.

Kane disputed claims that the Peace Bridge has a franchise on the border site. He insists even with the 83 year-old law on the books, Canada could give the green light to another bridge if it wanted to.

At one time, the Peace Bridge Authority was also looking into the possibility of an alternate bridge down river along the International Railroad corridor. However, after completing a feasibility study, officials dropped the idea.

Last week, Peace Bridge Authorities unveiled design plans for a new “companion” Peace Bridge as part of its ongoing expansion project. The Peace Bridge Design Selection Jury, which was established by the Town of Fort Erie and the City of Buffalo, recommended a concentrate crossing based on cable stay bridge concepts, supporting a main span of 500 meters.

In October, the committee rejected the idea of replacing the existing peace Bridge. The group estimates, however, that about 69 percent of Canadian and Americans supported the replacement approach.

— with files from the Buffalo News

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