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Crippling Wait Times At Lewiston-Queenston Bridge Hindered Growth Of The Regional Economy Pre-COVID; Canadian Shoppers And Businesses Spent $1.7 Billion Annually In New York State, Pre-COVID

Senator Spent Years Pushing CBP & GSA To Approve Desperately-Needed Plaza Expansion To Improve Traffic Flow, Bolster The Regional Economy, & Protect Jobs In WNY 

Schumer: Lewiston Plaza Expansion Will Boost Post-COVID Economic Recovery For Western New York

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced the completion of a major milestone in the project to modernize the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge plaza in Western New York. The newly completed, 32,000 square foot U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Auto and Bus processing facility will help cut down on egregious wait times that made it difficult for visitors to cross the U.S.-Canadian border and hindered commerce and the international exchange of goods and travel. Post-COVID, the expansion will also help to increase tourism, bringing back countless jobs across Western New York, especially in Lewiston and Niagara Falls.

“The revitalization of the Lewiston-Queenston port of entry is a critical investment in the Western New York economy and the efficiency and security of the U.S.-Canadian border,” said Senator Schumer. “The economies of Western New York and Southern Ontario are inextricably linked. Millions of vehicles from both sides cross this bridge annually. Once the border reopens for non-essential travel, and especially as the region recovers from the devastating effects of COVID-19, we must secure easier, more secure and more efficient travel so we can ensure continued economic benefit from commuters, commercial movements, travel, and tourism for the Western New York community and beyond.”

“The Lewiston-Queenston Land Port of Entry is not only critical to the economies of Western New York and Southern Ontario, but also to the greater U.S.-Canada relationship,” said Kenneth Bieger, NFBC CEO. “This new facility is a true testament to the hard work of the Commission, our construction partners, and fellow colleagues at both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. General Services Administration. In addition, we’re appreciative of the support and assistance provided by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and other key elected officials in helping to prioritize these projects and improve the overall travel experience for commuters, tourists, residents, and businesses alike.”

“It has been incredible to witness the progress of this important revitalization initiative. We look forward to continued collaboration with all entities involved as we work towards the completion of these tremendous infrastructure upgrades that will result in efficient, world-class operations at our border,” said Mike Goodale, NFBC Chairman.

Construction on the Auto and Bus processing facility began in August 2018, and is the first leg of the $91 Million Phase II. This portion of the project included the construction of a new 32,000 square foot auto and bus processing facility, 6,000 square foot secondary inspection canopy, and a dedicated bus lane. The first phase of the project was completed in 2016 and saw the relocation of Interstate 190, major utilities, and build-out of the Duty-Free Shop.

The rest of Phase II will see the demolition of the previous 5,000 square foot inspection facility which will allow for the construction of new primary inspection lanes. In the end, 15 new lanes will be installed, including nine dedicated auto lanes, five high-low lanes that can process both trucks and autos based on demand, and one lane dedicated solely to the processing of commercial trucks. Phase II is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023.

The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge is a critical link between the U.S. and Canada and is owned and operated by the NFBC. The Lewiston Plaza processes both commercial traffic and passenger vehicles crossing the border into the U.S. supporting billions of dollars in trade each year. U.S.-Canadian trade exceeds $32 billion per year, and pre-COVID, Canadian shoppers and businesses spend approximately $1.7 billion per year in New York State. Prior to this year, over three million passenger vehicles crossed the Lewiston-Queenston bridge annually and it supported the fourth highest volume of commercial traffic on the U.S.-Canadian border. However, due to recent wait times, many Canadian shoppers avoided the Lewiston-Queenston bridge, or avoided shopping in the U.S. altogether. The Lewistown Plaza could no longer support the high volume of traffic crossing the bridge and, as a result, significant delays at the border had become damaging to the Western New York regional economy.

Schumer has spearheaded the expansion from the beginning. During an April 2015 visit to Western New York, Schumer initially urged CBP and GSA to invest in a plaza expansion and renovation project in partnership with the NFBC that would increase processing capacity and decrease wait times. During this visit, Schumer explained that, over the last year, both GSA and CBP have been engaged in ongoing discussions with the NFBC on the project, which would address a number of issues at the plaza.

In October 2015, Schumer announced that the GSA approved a critical first-step designation that allowed the project for the U.S. plaza at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to move forward. Schumer explained that GSA was required to give CBP the greenlight to begin securing funding for this project by way of scoring the proposal as an “operational” lease. This allowed NFBC to begin securing the financial commitments to make the expansion a reality. In October, Schumer vowed to continue pushing CBP to move forward with the NFBC to fund the project and begin construction on this massive plaza upgrade, and in 2016, standing at the Bridge, the senator delivered, announcing that CBP and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) had agreed to partner with the NFBC to fund the $50 million project.

The NFBC is a bi-national transportation entity that was created in 1938 by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress.  It is licensed to operate in Ontario under the Extra Provincial Corporations Act.  NFBC owns and operates the Rainbow Bridge, Whirlpool Bridge, and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.  The eight member Board of Commissioners consists of four appointees by the Governor of New York and four appointees by the Premier of Ontario.