Niagara Falls Bridge Commission
As one of the busiest Canada-U.S. border crossings, The Queenston/Lewiston Bridge, owned by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC), is essential to the trade, tourism and relations between the two countries. As such, the Canadian government has recently invested in a revitalization plan for the Canadian Customs and Toll Plaza, located in Niagara–on–the-Lake, Ontario, at the end of the Queenston Bridge which links Canada and the U.S. With this investment the Canadian Government hopes to ensure the continued efficiency of this bi-national crossing for decades to come.
To understand the role of the NFBC, please allow a quick history lesson. A Joint Resolution of the 1938 U.S. Congressional Third Session and subsequent amendments created the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC) as it currently is constituted. The Extra Provincial Corporations Act of the Province of Ontario, Canada licenses the NFBC. Canada and the U.S. are equally represented on the NFBC. The eight-member Board of Commissioners consists of four appointees by the Ontario Premier and four by the New York State Governor.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission is a bi-national, not-for-profit corporation charged with the authority to construct acquire and operate bridges traversing the Niagara River at or near Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Canada. The Commission operates and maintains the Rainbow Bridge, the Whirlpool Bridge and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. The NFBC is self supportive, largely through user fees (tolls) and private sector tenant leases, and is federally chartered to conduct international commercial financial transactions and issue federal (U.S.) tax-exempt bonds.
The mission of NFBC
The Commission’s mission is “To Build, Maintain, and Operate River border crossings to facilitate commerce and the movement of goods and people in a safe and efficient manner.” They accomplish this mission by operating more then one crossing besides the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge; they also operate the Rainbow Bridge and the Whirlpool Bridge, which is the only dedicated NEXUS only crossing.
If you have ever taken a shopping trip to Buffalo, New York, gone to New York City for a Yankees game, or purchased lumber for a home project, you probably have the NFBC to thank for the ease and organization of those endeavours.
With a growing population and more people crossing borders, enhanced national security, and an undersized Queenston Plaza, the NFBC, in conjunction with the Canadian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transportation, have undertaken a multi-phase project to improve the capacity and operations of the Queenston plaza.
The end goal of this ambitious project will manifest in a new central 110,000 square foot building for the Canada Border Services Agency, a new 6,100 square foot building for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, ten new inspection booths to accommodate a higher capacity of vehicles, a state of the art bus processing area and associated facilities to assist officers with their duties. The price of the new CBSA and CFIA facilities is estimated to be $78 million, of which $62 million is paid for by the Federal Government.
On April 16, 2010, Rob Nicholson, the member of parliament for the Niagara Falls area, announced that the revitalisation plans were progressing in a timely and cost effective manner. Phase one was completed and opened on “January 19, 2010,” says Operations and Facilities Manager, Mark Decker. “This consisted of the construction of six new toll booths, a multi-level parking garage, a maintenance facility and five new commercial primary inspection booths (these are ‘high-low’ booths and are also able to process auto mobile traffic during the heavy traffic conditions) at a cost of $51 million.”
Currently in phase two of the project, the NFBC will turn over the building to the Canada Border Services Agency in late November, who will then customize the interior space of the building. The new facility is scheduled to be opened and fully operational in late January 2011.
During that same time, the NFBC will commence the third phase of the revitalization project. “After the buildings are turned over to CBSA and CFIA, the NFBC will demolish the old buildings in the spring of 2011 and then repave the areas where the buildings were located.”
The rehabilitation of the Queenston Plaza, which was originally built in the 1960s, employed over 500 construction workers and consultants at different phases of the project. The NFBC was very cognisant of its surrounding area, included in which are the Niagara Parks and the citizens who live in the area. “The NFBC is sensitive to the communities and countries in which we work,” says General Manager, Lew Holloway.
The NFBC has spent nearly a million dollars in the first phase of this project on landscaping, to be a good neighbour and to take care of the environment. The Commission has installed a Green Roof in the first phase and will be including an even larger green area on top of the Customs Building. They have installed sound barrier walls around the plaza perimeter to separate the commercial plaza from the all natural surrounding area of the Niagara Parks Department. A huge grit and oil separator was installed to filter all the surface rain water before it is diverted into a natural filtering system of swales and then into the Niagara Gorge.
The plaza concrete was chosen to be light in colour to alleviate some of the heat reflection from the pavement. “The Niagara Parks have an international reputation and is a gorgeous area so it was important to separate the commercial entity from the ‘green’ park area. It was quite a challenge, however, we think we may have accomplished our goal,” stated Holloway.
“We are using the latest technologies to assist us in reducing the use of energy and to limit our carbon footprint,” adds Mark Decker. The NFBC has commissioned building designs that are as energy efficient as they can reasonably be. “All materials used contribute to the environmental-friendly aspect of this project.”