Inspection of commercial trucks designed to reduce traffic congestion, improve flow of goods and enhance economic activity at nation's second-busiest northern border crossing
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Monday the start of the commercial vehicle pre-inspection pilot program at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario, in order to help ease congestion at the second-busiest border crossing on the U.S.-Canada border. This pilot program will be in place for a minimum of six months, but could eventually be made permanent, allowing all initial inspections to be done in Canada.
"After decades of dysfunction and delay, today's announcement is another common-sense step forward in making long-talked-about improvements to the Peace Bridge a reality," Cuomo said. "This move is a win-win for residents on both sides of the bridge, resulting in quicker trips across the border, reducing congestion and pollution, while improving the flow of traffic and health of neighboring communities."
The coordinated binational plan for pre-inspection of trucks was outlined by Cuomo in a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, detailing ways to minimize daily delays and congestion experienced by commercial carriers and motorists. Cuomo also outlined the applicability of the innovative, technology-driven border management solution, which addresses geographic constraints of the U.S. Customs Plaza and the availability of substantial processing space on the Canadian side of the border. DHS chose the Peace Bridge as one of only two bridges to be included in the pre-inspection pilot program as part of the "Beyond the Border Accord" initiative.
Cuomo's letter to Napolitano can be viewed here: http://www.governor.ny.gov/assets/documents/SecNapolitanoPeaceBridgeletter6-28-12.pdf.
Commercial pre-inspection streamlines the customs process for commercial carriers by initiating paperwork procedures and primary inspection prior to a vehicle's arrival in the U.S. Such a process would free-up much needed space at the U.S. Customs plaza - located within the City of Buffalo - and allow for the more efficient movement of goods and people at the crossing.
Prior to this pilot project, 100 percent of all trucks were required to go through a congested screening process on the American side of the border, resulting in idling trucks and creating an adverse impact on air quality, disrupting commerce, and backing up traffic across the bridge and into Canada. If pre-inspection is fully implemented after the pilot, the program will allow 90 percent of trucks to be fully cleared on the Canadian side, with approximately 10 percent requiring additional screening in the U.S.
"The United States and Canada have long enjoyed a strong binational partnership further bolstered by the 'Beyond the Border' agreement," said Congressman Brian Higgins, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Northern Border Caucus. "Pre-inspection saw success during phase one and holds great promise of facilitating a more efficient flow of goods, delivering environmental benefits and reducing congestion for all crossing the bridge. A more predictable border serves to grow the already deeply connected economies of Western New York and Southern Ontario, supporting jobs and businesses on both sides of the bridge."
Sam Hoyt, vice chairman of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, said, "Moving the prescreening process to the Canadian side of the border will mean that any new Peace Bridge plaza on the American side will have greater flexibility during the design process. This 'Beyond the Border' accord initiative, which Gov. Cuomo vigorously advocated for, will result in fewer delays for truckers carrying goods into the United States, for tourists, and visitors heading to a Sabres or Bills games, or to shop or dine at New York restaurants. It will greatly improve commerce between businesses on both sides of the border."
State Sen. Mark Grisanti said, "The Peace Bridge plays a critical role in our economy. The commercial vehicle pre-inspection pilot program at the bridge will not only make for easier passage for commercial vehicles and goods, but also for commuters and tourists. I thank Gov. Cuomo and our federal and local partners for securing this pilot program for our region."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "Locating the pre-inspection pilot program at the Peace Bridge is a major step forward for Buffalo and all of Western New York. My thanks to Sen. Schumer, Congressman Higgins and Gov. Cuomo for their tireless advocacy on this important issue. Moving traffic efficiently across the border is critical to commerce between the United States and Canada, and I am confident that the pre-inspection pilot will lead to great progress along our northern border."
Mayor Byron Brown said, "This pilot program is an important step in the right direction. The border experience should maximize the flow of people and products to encourage economic activity between the U.S. and Canada. This pilot program could lead to the permanent relocation of all truck primary inspections to Ontario, improving the flow of goods at this busy border crossing, while enhancing economic activity."
The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, a binational bridge authority, has owned and operated the Peace Bridge since 1933. The bridge, which was opened to traffic in 1927, spans the Niagara River between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, N.Y., and is a key international border crossing.