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Will The Environmentalists Win Over Peace Bridge Design?

by on April 27, 2008

Christian Menn’s winning design for the new Peace Bridge appears to be doomed after environmentalists have conjured up fears of dangers to birds. The jury that selected the design back in 2005 is less than thrilled with the news.

“It’s ridiculous to think the Niagara River is the one river in all the world where birds would be befuddled by a cable-stayed bridge,” said Lawlor F. Quinlan III, a Buffalo lawyer.

“I’m so disappointed I could scream,” added Martha Bliss, another juror. “There are huge, tall bridges all over the world. I don’t know why it’s not possible in Buffalo.”

The potential risk to birds arose during the 32-member binational jury’s deliberations more than two years ago –but no expert or consultant warned them the proposed bridge’s height could be a deal-breaker, the jurors said.

Instead, consultants said steps could be taken to mitigate potential problems with migratory birds along the Niagara River corridor.

“We were told by the consultants and the Peace Bridge Authority that all the bridges that the jury reviewed could be built,” said Robert G. Shibley, a University at Buffalo professor of architecture and planning who served as cochairman of the jury.

Will environmentalists kill Menn’s bridge design for good? The concern over birds is ludicrous, and there’s no evidence that the concerns over dangers to birds is based on reality. Menn’s design is similar to an earlier bridge he designed: the Zakim Bridge in Boston, MA. As a former Boston resident, I can tell you that the bridge has yet to cause any bird fatalities. So, unless the birds in Boston are a significantly smarter than the the birds in Western New York, there really is no reason to scrap Menn’s design.

Despite the so-called environment concerns, Menn’s design has an ally in Senator Chuck Schumer:

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he’s not willing to give up on the cable-stayed design.

“This signature bridge was far and away the consensus choice as it provided a stunning architectural monument to serve as the gateway between Canada and the United States,” Schumer said in a letter to the secretaries of interior and transportation. Others hope Schumer and the rest of Western New York’s c ongressional delegation will continue that fight.

“To our knowledge, the throwing out of Menn’s design based on birds is without precedent,” said Patrick McNichol, a spokesman for the New Millennium Group of Western New York, which has championed a new signature Peace Bridge since 1999.

“No evidence has been provided to support such a drastic change,” McNichol said.

The organization called the decision to abandon the cable-stayed design “unacceptable” and said it “undermines what little confidence the public had in the process.”

I have no idea what the ultimate fate of Menn’s design is, but I am sure the fight will go on for quite a while.

One Comment
  1. An Observer permalink

    It would not only be a nice turn-about to get the Menn design approved but with the addition of those nice wind turbines mounted at the top of each 567 ft. tower. That’d be a helluva John Hancock 😉

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