After years of struggle in Washington, a new system of processing trucks crossing the Peace Bridge into the United States is now officially in place
Customs agents are now pre-clearing trucks in Fort Erie. The change is meant to speed traffic across the bridge because trucks will move faster through the booths at the U.S. end and allow cars to move faster. The span is the nation’s second busiest border crossing and is often subject to congestion.
In 2011, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said it couldn't be done. But on Monday, officials of the same department were in Fort Erie to open the pilot program.
Senator Charles Schumer says it's the right decision and will help move the flow of traffic.
"We recognized that the Fort Erie side, where we stand today, had a greater capacity to pre-screen trucks coming into Buffalo," Schumer said. "What do we expect now? More efficient crossings, more tourists and travel expenditures in Western New York, more tax revenue, and more job creation."
Schumer says moving trucks through faster will ease air pollution because trucks won't be sitting and idling as much. While some traffic will have to be searched on the U.S. side of the bridge, many trucks will simply drop off their paperwork and move on.
Since it is a pilot project, it's only being used four days a week, Monday through Thursday, and officially runs for one year. The hope is to make it permanent.
Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says there are economic realities involved.
"This new cargo pre-inspection facility is an important achievement for the Buffalo area, our Canadian partners, and for the entire Beyond the Borders Initiative. Canada and the United States enjoy the world's largest trading relationship, with more than $1 trillion in cross-border trade each year, more than $1 million per minute," Mayorkas said.
Two construction projects are expected to also move traffic more rapidly, a widening of the last section going down onto the plaza, which will be finished this year, and the start to new ramps connecting the bridge and the Thruway.