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New Legislation Would Tackle Next Crucial Hurdle In Finalizing Permanent Pre-Inspection

Schumer, Gillibrand & Higgins Bill Would Provide Legal Authority Needed for Border Agents Carrying Out Pre-Inspection in Canada  

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Representative Brian Higgins today announced legislation that would bring the pre-inspection program at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo one step closer to permanence. The Senators and Congressman explained that the bill they are introducing and pushing in Congress, the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016, would expand U.S. jurisdiction over American Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents that are operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements. Schumer, Gillibrand and Higgins said this would ensure American citizens and federal government workers are subject to U.S. law and legal protections when working at the pre-inspection location just across the border in Canada. The Senators and Congressman said clearing this next legal hurdle is needed in order to make the pre-inspection program permanent at the Peace Bridge. Finalizing pre-inspection will help reduce congestion and delays at the US plaza, and therefore improve both the environment and regional economy.  

“Making pre-inspection at the Peace Bridge permanent is critical, and clearing these legal hurdles now will better pave the way to making the prescreening program a reality in the future. This legislation will bring us one step closer to speeding up traffic, reducing horrible wait times, improving the flow of commerce, and decreasing pollution from idling trucks on the American plaza for years to come,” said Senator Schumer. “I am urging my colleagues in Congress to pass this bill, which will make the Peace Bridge more efficient, supporting the Western New York economy, tourism, and job growth across the region.”

“As one of the busiest passenger crossings in the country, safety and efficiency are critical in connecting the U.S. with Canada,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Making the pre-inspection at the Peace Bridge permanent would enhance the security of the transfer of goods and services across the border. The safeguards provided by the legislation would help move along this critical process that will boost New York’s economy especially in Western New York and preserve our economic links with Canada.”

“After years of talking about relieving congestion at the Peace Bridge, we are finally working on concrete steps to make that happen,” said Congressman Higgins. “The pre-inspection pilot project provided valuable insight into short and long term action items to move the flow of people and goods across our border more efficiently.  This legislation addresses legalities necessary to move forward with binational collaboration in a way that fosters economic opportunity and improves the quality of life for our border community neighborhoods and region.”

Schumer, Gillibrand and Higgins, who have long worked together on the pre-inspection efforts at the Peace Bridge, said making this program permanent is the critical next step in reducing delays and congestion at the border crossing. In addition, this pre-inspection can also be used to reduce pressure on the US plaza, and help pave the way for future efforts to improve traffic flow and reduce pollution at the Peace Bridge.

This pre-inspection pilot program kicked off in February 2014 and proved highly successful in reducing congestion and delays at the Western NY border crossing. Schumer, Gillibrand and Higgins said providing the legal authority is the next step in moving toward full implementation of permanent pre-inspection. By moving the cargo prescreening process to the Canadian side of the border, where space is readily available, it will reduce pressure on the Peace Bridge plaza on the American side. In addition, a more efficient inspection process in Canada will result in fewer delays for truckers carrying goods into the United States, for tourists, and for day visitors seeking to take in Sabres or Bills games, or to shop or dine at New York restaurants. It would greatly improve commerce between businesses on both sides of the border.

Currently, 100 percent of all trucks must go through a congested screening process on the American side of the border, and as that congestion builds it has an adverse impact on air quality and commerce and backs up traffic across the bridge and into Canada. Following the full implementation of the pre-inspection program, it is estimated that 90 percent of truck traffic would be fully cleared on the Canadian side, with approximately 10% requiring additional screening in the United States.