September 28, 2011

Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter, & Hochul Urge U.S. Customs And Border Protection To Support Peace Bridge Customs Plaza Renovation And Pre-Inspection Concept

Proposed Plan Would Increase Capacity For Handling Traffic Congestion and Increase Safety at Border

Washington, DC- U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Brian Higgins, Louise Slaughter, and Kathy Hochul urged the office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to expedite the exploration of commercial pre-inspection opportunities and the implementation of Customs Plaza renovations at the Peace Bridge international border crossing in Buffalo.  As the busiest passenger vehicle crossing and third busiest commercial vehicles crossing on the Northern border, the Peace Bridge plays a vital role in the overall economic viability of Western New York, the state, and the country. The proposed changes would increase the volume of both commercial and passenger vehicles the bridge can accommodate and construct a larger state of the art commercial inspection facility that would increase safety measures at the border.

“The implementation of the Peace Bridge Customs Plaza Renovation and Pre-Inspection Concept is important to both the safety and economic health of Western New York,” Senator Gillibrand said. “As one of the busiest passenger crossings in the country, safety and efficiency are critical in connecting the U.S. with Canada. This plan would provide crucial enhancement to the Peace Bridge, allowing Western New Yorkers easier and safer access to this important facility.”

“Backups at the Peace Bridge delay and discourage economic opportunity for Western New York and the entire nation,” said Congressman Higgins.  “A new reconfigured plaza and streamlined crossing procedures are good first steps to long overdue bridge construction as we work to provide the additional capacity needed to support and grow the $227.4 billion in economic activity and 1 million jobs directly linked to the Peace Bridge.”

“More cars cross into Canada at the Peace Bridge than anywhere else along the northern border which is why it’s so important that we make the process more efficient,” said Congresswoman Slaughter. “For Buffalo has suffered frustrating delays with the Peace Bridge, and the improvement of the Customs Plaza is one thing we can get working on now.”

“The Peace Bridge is one of region's largest economic stimulators,” said Congresswoman Hochul. “The people and products that cross this border each and every day directly stimulate our economy through tourism and commerce, which is why improvements and renovations to the Custom's Plaza are necessary to our community's long-term economic sustainability.”

The proposed changes to the Peace Bridge Customs Plaza Renovations and Pre-Inspection area would increase the number of vehicles that can be queued in front of the Primary Inspection Lanes, remove unneeded traffic signals, and include a new configuration for a flyover ramp that would allow traffic to proceed directly onto the Peace Bridge without stopping. A new state-of-the-art commercial building would improve efficiency and increase safety at the border. The Duty Free facility would be located outside of the Plaza and given separate entrance and exit lanes to the facility. Additional parking would also be added for both commercial vehicles and autos.

Full text of the letter is below:

Dear Commissioner Bersin:

As members of the Western New York Congressional delegation, we would like to once again extend our appreciation for your assistance in expediting the exploration of commercial pre-inspection opportunities and the implementation of Customs Plaza renovations at the Peace Bridge international border crossing in Buffalo, New York.

As the busiest passenger vehicle crossing and third busiest commercial vehicle crossing on the northern border, the Peace Bridge plays an integral role in the overall economic viability of the Buffalo Niagara region, the State of New York, and the entire nation.

For many years, efforts have been underway to reduce congestion and enhance the corridor’s overall safety and efficiency; however, planning delays and difficulties in accommodating the rigorous facility standards and requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) have resulted in no action at the crossing.

With that said, the delegation is pleased that an innovative option exists to renovate and modernize the antiquated U.S. Customs Plaza – using only Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority funds – while at the same time continuing the pursuit of a pre-inspection concept for commercial traffic at the Peace Bridge.

The Western New York community has waited far too long for port improvements at the Peace Bridge; CBP and GSA should, therefore, work expeditiously to approve and advance the prospective port renovation concept and associated pre-inspection efforts.

We strongly encourage both CBP and GSA to remain adaptable in achieving the desired renovation outcome, recognizing that site constraints and current Customs Plaza inadequacies are severely hampering the efficiency of the port.  Based on the absence of a federal funding commitment towards the renovation concept and since it will bring about a vast improvement over the current outdated processing facilities, both CBP and GSA should be flexible in interpreting requirements to minimize any delay to the project’s implementation.

As you stated this past June, the time is now for America to rapidly implement innovative, cost-effective border management solutions that will strengthen security and increase the flow of legitimate trade and travel.

A summary of the benefits of the Peace Bridge U.S. Customs Plaza renovations is attached for your reference.

Thank you for your continued commitment to protecting our nation and enhancing North American economic viability.