BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins and Republican Congressman Chris Collins are calling for the plaza on the U.S. side of the Peace Bridge to expand. But people living in the neighborhood around the plaza aren’t on board.
Right now, the plaza takes up about 17 acres of land. Congressman Higgins says he would like to see it expand to 25 acres. He says he’s looking for funding to make it happen.
“This is just not the best and most efficient use of the footprint that we have here,” Higgins said.
“We must prioritize the strong economic partnership between the U.S. and Canada,” Collins added.
The plan calls for new technology, such as facial recognition software, to be installed on the Canadian side of the border to detect people coming into the United States.
“You’re going to see vastly improved aesthetics with LED lighting, landscaping, and public art,” explained Higgins.
Higgins also says the plan would decrease wait times for vehicles coming into the U.S. by more than 50%, something most drivers are on board with.
“I know in the past years it has been slow,” said Canadian driver Howard Dennis.
But people living near the Peace Bridge on the American side have a different view.
“Now they want to encroach into the neighborhood. That is unacceptable,” said Buffalo Common Councilman David Rivera.
Rivera represents the area around Busti Avenue. He has concerns about the idea of a growing plaza, with traffic moving closer to homes in the neighborhood.
“I certainly will not support the selling of Busti Avenue to the State of New York or to the Peace Bridge,” Rivera said. “I am only one of nine council members. But I will stand with the neighborhood on this one.”
Some of the space Higgins wants to use for the expansion is already owned by the Peace Bridge Authority, but not all.
“You’re not going to have that huge intrusion into the neighborhood that prior iterations of a new American plaza created,” Higgins said.
According to officials, there are about $50 million in the Peace Bridge Authority’s budget available for this project already. Higgins says he expects the total cost to be between $75 million and $100 million. He plans on lobbying the General Services Administration to kick in some money.