06.30.11

SCHUMER BACKS NEW PLAN TO STREAMLINE AND EXPEDITE TRUCK SCREENING AT THE PEACE BRIDGE PRESCREENING OF TRUCKS ON THE CANADIAN SIDE OF THE BORDER WOULD ALLOW FOR NEW, MORE EFFICIENT PEACE BRIDGE PLAZA

Screening Proposal Would Allow Traffic To Flow More Easily, Improve Air Quality, And Could Pave The Way For A Smaller Border Plaza That Would Disrupt Far Fewer PropertiesSchumer Announces Support For Customs And Border Protection Plan To Screen Incoming Trucks On Canadian Side Of The Border U.S. Already Planning To Implement Prescreening Pilot Program in Port Huron, MISchumer: This Plan Makes New, Smaller Plaza Possible While We Work Towards A New Peace Bridge

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced his support for a proposal to prescreen incoming trucks on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge plaza, which could pave the way for a new, comprehensive approach to this critical border crossing including a smaller, less disruptive plaza. Under the proposal that Schumer supports, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would conduct primary screening of U.S. bound trucks on the Canadian side of the border. Moving the screening of incoming trucks onto the Canadian side would speed up the inspection process that is currently bogged down due to insufficient space on the American side to screen trucks. It would also alleviate airquality concerns caused by hours and hours of idling trucks. 

Most importantly, moving the screening of incoming trucks could clear the way for a significantly smaller new plaza on the American side. The new plaza could be built for approximately $60 million, would disrupt far fewer private residences, and could be completed without the burden of federal red tape that has mired past proposals. The new screening process and plaza would streamline the efficiency of the Peace Bridge, and would still allow for the construction of a new bridge in the future.

"Prescreening trucks on the Canadian side is a game changing innovation that opens the door for a significantly smaller, lesspolluting and lessdisruptive plaza. This is a critical first step towards untangling the Peace Bridge plaza," said Schumer. "Moving the primary inspection of incoming truck traffic to Canada would be great for New York and Canadian businesses, and could be a key part of the puzzle as we seek to improve the Peace Bridge crossing. The crossing is a major artery for Buffalo's economy, and we need to clear out as much of the blockage as possible, while making the crossing efficient and friendly for residents and tourists. With screening moved to the other side of the border, we'll be able to build a more compact Peace Bridge plaza as we continue the effort to build a new bridge."

At a hearing on the northern border in May chaired by Schumer, the Senator pointed out to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin that the Peace Bridge is the third busiest commercial crossing in the nation, handling over $30 billion in commerce between the United States and Canada each year. The Lewiston Queenston crossing comes in just behind the Peace Bridge, as the fourth busiest crossing. Schumer, in response to concerns from business leaders in Western New York who have experienced serious delays in receiving their products coming from Canada, pressed the Department of Homeland Security to do more to alleviate these delays. In response, Commissioner Bersin stated at the hearing that they are committed to working with Canadian authorities to segregate highrisk cargo at highvolume crossings like the Peace Bridge, and the Lewiston Queenston crossing, to help expedite the overall processing of commercial traffic. Schumer believes that weeding out highrisk cargo for closer inspection will help improve the flow of commerce across these essential crossings, providing a boost to local businesses in Upstate New York. Commissioner Bersin stated his support for a pilot program to conduct some prescreening of trucks on the Canadian side.

In subsequent conversations with Schumer, Commissioner Bersin told the Senator that Customs and Border Protection could screen all incoming truck traffic on the Canadian side. Moving the screening process to the Canadian side of the Border would mean that any new Peace Bridge plaza on the American side could be much smaller. A more efficient screening process in Canada would result in fewer delays for truckers carrying goods into the United States, tourists, and day visitors seeking to take in Sabres or Bills games, or to dine at New York restaurants. It would greatly improve commerce between businesses on both sides of the border. Currently, 100% of all trucks must go through a congested screening process on the American side of the border. Under the plan Schumer supports, 90% would be fully cleared on the Canadian side, with approximately 10% requiring additional screening in the United States. Suspicious vehicles entering the U.S. would be flagged as they came onto American soil, and made to undergo additional screening at the U.S. Port of Entry before entry could be permitted. Schumer today pledged to work with CBP to secure the necessary approval from Canadian authorities.

If the plan Schumer backs is adopted, the Peace Bridge Authority (PBA) could potentially move forward with a plan for a smaller, $60 million plaza renovation that would be completed without additional federal funds. The plan takes up a much smaller area of land, covering 8 properties (7 of which are already owned by the PBA) rather than the 88 required by other plans. The proposal could support 12 to 13 primary inspection booths for trucks, an increase from the current number of 7, an additional 6 or 7 car inspection booths bringing the total to 17 or 18, and include 2 xray booths to replace an inadequate mobile unit. The plan also calls for a new Customs commercial building to increase the security of the plaza. Schumer is not endorsing a specific proposal for the plaza, but believes that establishing prescreening on the Canadian side of the border could lend itself to greater flexibility and options for a new Peace Bridge plaza.



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