Plan aims to ease border congestion, streamline international commerce
Congressman Brian Higgins, NY-26, announced Thursday that U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was to sign a memorandum of understanding with Canada authorizing two phases of primary inspections of commercial cargo in Canada, including one at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo.
"The economic future of Western New York will be linked to our integration with Canada," said Higgins, a member of the House of Representatives committees on homeland security and foreign affairs, as well as the U.S.-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Group. "The Beyond the Border Action Plan was symbolic of that, and this agreement is a concrete step in that direction."
The MOU is a codification of commitments in the Beyond the Border Action Plan, which originally authorized the pilots to take place. Phase one will take place in Blaine, Wash. Phase two will be at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo.
Phase one, the Blaine pilot, will operate for a period up to six months, for as long as 18 months. It is expected that, after those six months have been completed, the agencies will assess and determine whether and how to proceed to phase two at the Peace Bridge. The Peace Bridge pilot will test the feasibility of decreasing wait times by conducting primary inspections in Canada. It is estimated that the pilot at the Peace Bridge could commence in 2014.
This is just the latest effort to improve the flow of goods and people across the northern border. Last week, Higgins joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo in announcing a $22 million project to improve the gateway at the Peace Bridge, which will involve restoration of Olmsted's Front Park and reconfiguration of the plaza. In addition, the Peace Bridge Authority and New York State Department of Transportation will begin work this year on a $20 million project to construct a new U.S. Customs commercial building.