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Schumer: Shared Border Management At The Peace Bridge Clears Second Major Hurdle In A Month

Senator gets FWHA assurance that it will include shared border plan in its upcoming environmental report, a prerequisite for getting the plan done Schumer: Major breakthrough means a green light for plan to move all Peace Bridge operations to Canada

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that he successfully persuaded the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to endorse a reduced US plaza in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), moving Shared Border Management at the Peace Bridge another step closer to completion. This move was in response to a letter and phone call from Schumer to Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters urging the FHWA, the lead agency in the federal process that oversees the bridge expansion project, to make the change official.

"Shared Border Management at the Peace Bridge is really picking up steam, "Schumer said. "Last month we cleared one hurdle when the US and Canada agreed to move all primary and secondary Customs operations to the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge. Today, we've cleared another. I told Administrator Peters that the border plan needed to be included in its upcoming environmental report. She agreed, and that means we're one step closer to finally getting the trucks out of Buffalo's neighborhoods and getting the Peace Bridge project moving forward," Schumer said.

Schumer, who has led the charge to achieve Shared Border Management at the Peace Bridge, visited Buffalo last month to urge the FHWA to officially endorse a reduced US plaza in its DEIS. Before today, the FHWA had not officially included a reduced US plaza design in its environmental study as a "reasonable alternative." Schumer said that now that the US and Canada have agreed on a Shared Border Management plan that will move all of the plaza infrastructure to Canada, the reduced plaza design will be put in the DEIS as the top option.

Currently, while the DEIS includes three official options that are deemed "reasonable alternatives," the Shared Border Management alternative is only mentioned in the study as a possibility for the future, but it is not fully developed like the other three. The first alternative being considered would expand the existing plaza to 22 acres, would knock down the Episcopal Church Home and leave 125 properties between the idling trucks and Niagara Street. The second current option would move the plaza to the north, expand it to 50 acres and require the taking of 120 properties. This alternative would also occupy a substantial portion of the waterfront along the Niagara River. The third, required in all federal environmental studies, is a "no build" option that would leave the existing plaza "as is." With Peters' commitment, Shared Border Management will be the fourth option. Peters also assured Schumer that this step will not slow the process.

Schumer said Ridge's recent announcement to move all Customs facilities to Canada required the inclusion of the reduced plaza in the federal study. The agreement includes making the Peace Bridge crossing a pilot project that could influence the way Shared Border Management is utilized along the entire northern border. It also includes a reciprocal arrangement that would move Customs facilities to the US side of the border at either the LewistonQueenston crossing, or the border crossing at the Thousand Islands Bridge.

The border plan, announced recently by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, will avert the need to build a massive truck plaza on the US side of the Peace Bridge that would have taken over 100 West Side properties. With Customs operations relocated to Fort Erie, Schumer said that idling trucks will no longer have to sit on Buffalo's residential streets and the historic Front Park will have a chance to be restored. Schumer said the plan will also ease the traffic problems that have plagued motorists and ground commerce to a standstill.