Higgins Calls For Immediate Construction on Cable-Stayed Design With Mitigation Work Included to Protect the Environment
WASHINGTON, DC - Today Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27), other members of the Western New York Delegation, Governor David Paterson and members of the Peace Bridge Authority met with administrators from the Federal Highway Administration and the National Fish and Wildlife Service to discuss the future of the Peace Bridge expansion project. The meeting comes after concerns were raised that the Cable-Stayed design, which was named first choice in 2005 following a public jury process, may be in jeopardy due to newly raised concerns about the project’s impact on birds and fish.
“There are approximately 1,000 cable-stay bridges currently existing or under construction around the world today,” said Congressman Higgins. “The choice between our first design choice and our environment is a false one. Through creative and aggressive environmental mitigation efforts we can have both - the Menn design without delay and a bridge that respects the natural environment around it.”
Congressman Higgins cited a Hong Kong report which reviewed 211 other studies to determine the impact of human infrastructure on bird mortality. The report, which for the most part examined North American data, found that only 0.02% of bird deaths were attributable to collisions with tall structures, including bridges, buildings and towers.
“Discussions about a new bridge date back to 1989, nearly 20 years ago, and finally with construction set to begin next year, this community doesn’t want another delay that could set us back an additional two years or more,” said Higgins. “We should act now to address concerns raised about the project’s impact on the fish and avian population, implement measures that protect these species, save ourselves from another study and build this bridge now.”
Such mitigation efforts could include:
• Lighting the cables and towers at night and during inclement weather. The Hong Kong study suggests that cable-stayed bridges, because the cables are thick and often illuminated, are safer for birds than power lines, which are relatively thin and not illuminated.
• Eliminating the utility cables immediately upstream of the Peace Bridge, and incorporating them into the existing or new span. As proposed above, the net trade would be dark power lines for an illuminated bridge.
• Dedicating a source of bridge revenue to habitat projects. The Peace Bridge Authority could identify and dedicate a revenue stream to fund non-profit groups dedicated to protecting and nurturing the common tern, emerald shiner, and other wildlife in the corridor.
• Taken together, these mitigation efforts would produce a net benefit to the common tern and other wildlife in the Niagara River corridor as to eliminate the need for a multi-year study.
Congressman Higgins also raised concerns about the future of the project and presented evidence defending the Menn cable-stayed design in letters issued to federal agencies on February 25, 2008 and April 27, 2008.