Niagara Falls Bridge Commission
As chairperson of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, which operates the Rainbow, Whirlpool and Lewiston-Queenston bridges, I am occasionally asked what the commission is doing to improve the traffic flow at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge; more specifically, what is being done about the Lewiston Plaza. I am pleased to advise that rebuilding of the Lewiston Plaza is a top priority for the commission as critical improvements are necessary to help alleviate the current challenges with the processing of motor coach, commercial truck and passenger vehicle traffic.
Our mission is to facilitate commerce and the movement of goods and people in a safe and efficient manner; therefore, the Lewiston Plaza, which was built in the early 1960s, based on traffic patterns of that time, must be modernized to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection the facilities to safely and securely process traffic efficiently.
With the near completion of a modern plaza facility in Canada at Queenston, which is being well received by Canada Border Services Agency and the travelling public, it is critical similar improvements are made at Lewiston to allow the efficient processing of traffic in both directions.
The Lewiston Plaza has a total of 10 primary inspection lanes (four for commercial and six for passenger vehicles) with outdated secondary processing and customs office buildings. Plans are under way for a projected $50 million-plus development that could see the primary inspection lanes increased from the current 10 to 17, including 10 for passenger vehicles. The increase in primary inspection lanes, improved secondary inspection facilities and expanded administration building would go a long way towards providing CBP with the necessary facilities to safely and efficiently process traffic.
This project requires coordination and approval from various governmental agencies, and we are aggressively working on it with a goal of being shovel ready by spring 2013.
The three bridges we operate combined handle approximately 7 million passenger vehicles annually and are important to the economies in both the U.S and Canada. The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge handles about 3 million vehicles and 700,000 commercial trucks. The commission seeks the most efficient crossings possible at our three bridges on both sides of the border, and that is why this project is so important. We appreciate the support received from Congresswomen Louise Slaughter and Kathy Hochul.
The more access citizens have to NEXUS and other passes that speed crossings, the faster those crossings will be for all; that's why I want to point out that the Whirlpool Bridge is NEXUS only, so cars entering either nation from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. can do so quickly, easily and almost never face delays. Everyone in the vehicle must have a NEXUS card in their name to use the Whirlpool Bridge. Motorists wishing to obtain NEXUS passes can do so easily and quickly on line. The application process can be accessed at: www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/nexus_prog/ or via the commission's website. For more information, go to:http://www.niagarafallsbridges.com/nexustoll.pdf.
With an open flow of information and everyone working together, the commission is certain we can continue to reduce bridge crossing times.