Senator Charles Schumer came to one of Western New York's international crossings Tuesday to announce a $50 million project to improve the American side of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
Schumer says Canadians spend an estimated $1.7 billion in New York State annually, with a significant number of those consumers entering the state through the Lewiston-Queenston crossing. At the same time, according to the senator, during the busiest time of year for the border - about 50 to 70 days - lengthy waits are discouraging some from bringing their business into Western New York.
"They could wait an hour, two hours, three hours. The say the heck with it, I won't spend the night here in Buffalo, I won't spend the weekend here, I don't want to sit and wait, and wait, and wait," Schumer said during a news conference not far from the Duty Free shop on the American side of the bridge. "It's really hurt us. Visitors have experienced waiting times of up to three hours, to our detriment."
Funding for the project was made possible following approvals by Customs and Border Protection and by the General Services Administration. The upgrade will include replacement of the existing administrative and secondary processing building with a 32,833 square foot facility. The lanes will also be replaced and, when rebuilt, will expand the number of inspection lanes to nine for autos, six for trucks and a new, separate bus lane.
The project is expected to create up to 1,200 jobs, mostly in construction. Schumer said there will also be more hires to staff those added lanes. He noted that the latest federal budget includes money to hire 2,000 more agents for border security.
"We were promised 200 of them on the eastern section of the northern border," the senator said.
It was not made clear, though, exactly how many could be slated for the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge.
Officials say they'll spend the rest of this year completing a design, now that funding is in place, and put shovels in the ground some time in early 2017. Completion of the new plaza is anticipated by 2020.