At the easternmost edge of Lake Erie, where the lake meets the Niagara River, the Peace Bridge connects the United States and Canada. The two-thirds-of-a-mile-long bridge is one of the busiest border crossings between the two countries, connecting Canada’s Fort Erie with Buffalo, New York. Every day, an average of more than 15,000 vehicles, about 3,400 of which are trucks, drive over its steel girders.
In the shadow of the bridge sits a small neighborhood called the West Side, where the asthma rate is more than four times the national average, and residents report a host of other health issues. Advocates say the thousands of trucks driving overhead spew harmful diesel emissions and other particulates into their community. The pollutants hover in the air, are absorbed into buildings and houses, and find their way into the lungs of neighborhood residents, who are primarily people of color. “It’s constant asthma problems on the West Side,” says Sharon Tell, a local resident.
“We have to move past the point where your zip code determines the quality of your life,”
Idling trucks, with their engines running, are a regular presence on residential streets. “You see them park on our streets now, and sleeping overnight,” she says.