Customs changes to improve Peace Bridge traffic
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BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's an all too familiar sight on Buffalo's Peace Bridge. Trucks lined up idling, sometimes for hours, as they wait to get through customs.
But a new pilot program will do something lawmakers have been waiting years for: it will move U.S. customs onto the Canadian side of the bridge. The goal is to help cut down on traffic and wait times.
"All the inspections of cars and trucks will occur on the Canadian side of the border," explained Senator Chuck Schumer. "And there's much more land there on the Canadian side, they can build many more booths, so you won't have the one hour, two hour, three hour backups."
Twelve to fifteen customs booths will be built. Not only will they keep traffic flowing, but the move will help improve the air quality on the U.S. side of the bridge.
"It's idling diesel engines that are stuck on the bridge, and stuck on the plaza that triggers asthma in kids. That's why kids on the west side are particularly stricken with asthma," said Rep. Brian Higgins, (D).
A study on the pre-inspection plan showed that it would increase overall commercial vehicle throughput capacity by 72%. Lawmakers say the faster traffic means improved commerce. Right now, lawmakers say the bridge is unpredictable, and that often means companies refuse to use it for business.
"Sometimes there's no wait at all, and sometimes it goes three, four hours," said Schumer, (D). "But if you're a trucker, or you're a company, and you have to wait once those three or four hours, you're gonna find another way to go."
The agreement for the 18-month pilot program should be finalized by the end of December. Schumer says shovels will be in the ground shortly after.