A report surfaced last week in the wake of a Niagara Falls Reporter story concerning possible negative environmental and health consequences that might accompany a major expansion of the plaza facilities on the American side of the Lewiston Queenston Bridge.
The report was never made public, and became available to Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey and other Lewiston officials only after the story appeared in this newspaper.
To a great extent, it confirmed concerns voiced by Brochey in both the article and in a letter to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. The expansion will indeed result in a tremendous increase of traffic on the bridge, particularly heavy truck traffic, and that in turn will affect air and water quality, noise levels and other quality of life concerns.
Clearly not wanting their report to put the kibosh on the project, however, the consultants note that 50 percent of the traffic is from Canada, which has more stringent emissions standards, and that new breakthroughs in automotive technology many, in the future, actually reduce pollution levels from what they are now at the bridge.
"Future concentrations would be lower than existing values due to cleaner vehicles in the future," the report states.
And as far as the additional noise generated by the idling trucks and heavier traffic, the report states that such things are "subjective," and can have less to do with actual noise than with people's perception of noise. Most of the adverse effect would fall on Mount St Mary's Nursing Home and Day Care facility, where the construction of a 12-foot sound barrier wall might be helpful, the report concludes.
Essentially, the report does nothing to allay the concerns of Brochey and his constituents, who were blindsided a couple of weeks ago when Schumer held a press conference at the bridge to announce the project without inviting any of them.
At the press conference, Schumer announced he is seeking to secure $30 million in funding for a total $64 million first phase expansion of the customs plaza on the US side of the Lewiston Queenston bridge. Schumer said the antiquated and undersized plaza is the cause of traffic delays which are hindering Western New York's ability to fully tap into the Southern Ontario market.
"We should be making it easier for people who want to come here," he said. "If you spent three hours sitting and waiting on the bridge, you probably are not coming back."
But Brochey is primarily interested in the health and safety of the Lewiston residents he was elected to represent.