By DON GLYNN firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission will celebrate two milestones this year, the 75th anniversary of its founding and the 50th year of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
Built in 1962, the Lewiston-Queenston spans 370 feet above the Niagara River and measures 1,600 feet in length. It connects the 1-190 (Niagara Expressway) on the U.S. side with Highway 405 in Ontario. In the overall scheme, it is a vital link between the State Thruway and the Queen Elizabeth Way. To this day, it has the fifth highest volume of commercial traffic between the U.S. and Canada.
The Canadian Plaza reconstruction at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge was competed at a cost of $49 million. That project included enhancing the plaza footprint, a new toll house facility, and five new commercial inspection lanes. The second phase of that reconstruction encompassed a $78 million investment in facilities for the Canada Food Inspection Agency and Canada Border Services Agency, plus 10 new primary vehicle inspection booths. The third phase in 2012 included a new Duty Free Store, a Cirrency Exchange, and public washrooms. The final phase started in 2012 is expected to be complete this fall. It covers civil works, landscaping and a dividing wall.
A series of commemorative events is planned, starting in the fall, according to Thomas G. Pryce, chair of the commission. In addition to the Lewiston-Queenston span, the agency owns and operates the Rainbow Bridge and the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge The latter is restricted to NEXUS card holders, pre-screened, low-risk travelers,
The international bridge agency was established in 1938 through a joint resolution by the U.S. Congress and the Extra Provincial Corporations Act of Ontario. Both Canada and the U.S. are equally represented on the eight-member commission.
The commission was formed after the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (better known as the Honeymoon Bridge) collapsed into the ice-choked Niagara Gorge on Jan. 27, 1938. The crash was caused by a massive ice jam pushing against the hinge supports of the arch.
“To properly acknowledge and pay tribute to 75 years of effective, bi-national service to Western New York and southwestern Ontario, the commission will sponsor events and activities for the second-half of 2013,” Pryce said.
The commemorative activities will begin with the release of an official web page (www.niagarafallsbridges75.com), as well as anniversary logos, downloadable poster art for the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge 50th anniversary, and a weekly “Did You Know? Interesting Facts!”
As expected, the traffic flows at the spans have dramatically increased over the decades although there are occasional declines as evidenced by this year’s first six-month totals. A major factor when volumes spike is the steady flow of Ontario residents to shopping malls in the Buffalo-Niagara area. At times, Ontario license plates appear to match or even outnumber the New York plates in the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls parking lots on Military Road.
Records show that westbound auto traffic (into Canada) on the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge for the first six months of 2013 was 730,000, down from 803,000 during the same period in 2012. Meanwhile truck traffic (into Canada) from January to June 2013 was 168,000, compared with 176,000 a year ago.
L.J. (Lew) Holloway said the bridge commission records for eastbound traffic (into the U.S.) show only combined totals for car and truck traffic at 810,000. In 2012, that count was 854,000
On a larger scale, the total volume for traffic headed both ways on the three bridges (Rainbow, Whirlpool and Lewiston-Queenston) was 3,624,000 for the first six months this year, down some 110,000 from 3,733,000 for the comparable 2012 period.
Pryce also announced that the Niagara Gazette and the Niagara Falls, Ont., Review would be the official media sponsors for the two celebrations. Gazette publisher Peter Mio said, “Our newspaper is honored to be a media co-sponsor with the Review and we look forward to sharing with our community the rich history and future economic opportunities.”
Mio added that the commission is an entity that helps “connect our two great nations and all the freedoms we enjoy.”COMMISSION AT A GLANCE The eight-member Niagara Falls Bridge commission represents the agency that owns and operates the Lewiston-Queenston, Rainbow and Whirlpool bridges. Thomas G. Pryce of Youngstown is the current chairman. Other officers include: Ernest K. Smith, Niagara Falls, Ont., vice chairperson; Kathleen L. Neville, Wilson, N.Y., secretary; and Kenneth E. Loucks, Sauble Beach, Ont., treasurer. Other members are: Frank Soda, Niagara Falls, N.Y., Janice A. Thomson, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.; Russell Quarantello, Lewiston; and Michael J. Goodale, Grimsby, Ont. U.S. commissioners serve at the pleasure of the New York state governor while the Canadian commissioners are appointed by the premier of Ontario.