Congressman applauds funding that will help ease congestion at Peace Bridge, other border crossings
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced the federal budget bill, released late last night, includes an increase of $220.4 million in funding for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
"(The) economic benefits of sufficiently staffing the border and supporting the efficient flow of people and goods cannot be understated," Higgins said. "Opening up the door to our northern border opens up new opportunities for Western New York's economy. This budget will complement other efforts already underway to alleviate congestion and add certainty at our border crossings."
In the bill, CBP is budgeted at $10.6 billion, up $220.4 million from fiscal year 2013 levels, and includes language that specifically states that "$165,715,000 shall be available until September 30, 2015, solely for the purpose of hiring, training, and equipping new U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry."
The Peace Bridge, Lewiston Bridge and Rainbow Bridge all saw an increase in delays from 2012 to 2013. At the Peace Bridge wait times nearly doubled.
Last week, Higgins spoke on the House Floor advocating for an increase in staffing levels at the northern border. He previously met with CBP and wrote a letter with Rep. Chris Collins to the acting commissioner for CBP laying out the need for adequate staffing to address wait times.
This month, a pilot project to pre-inspect U.S.-bound trucks on the Canadian side of the border will begin. The effort, included in the binational "Beyond the Border" initiative, is also aimed at reducing bridge congestion. A state project is underway to enhance the plaza, further easing the border bottleneck.
A 2013 report to CBP issued by the University of Southern California National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events found significant economic benefits to increased border staffing.
•Each additional CBP officer added at the Peace Bridge would allow for an additional 22,884 Canadian passengers who spend an average of $169/trip, delivering $3.87 million in increased spending in Western New York/U.S., and similarly $3.6 million in increased spending for each CBP officer added at the Rainbow Bridge.
•The addition of one CBP officer at the Rainbow, Lewiston and Peace bridges combined supports 126 jobs locally and 149 total in the U.S.
•The impacts on the U.S. economy as a whole for plus-1 CBP added at the borders are: 1,094 annual jobs, $$65.8 million in GDP, and $21.2 million in value of time gained.
Higgins is a member of the House committees on homeland security and foreign affairs. He serves on the U.S.-Canada Interparliamentary Exchange and Northern Border Caucus. His district includes three automobile and two rail border crossings along the northern border between Western New York and Ontario.