U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced legislation that would enable the pre-clearance program that allows Canadians to travel more easily and safely back and forth over Peace Bridge, passed Congress late Friday night. The Senators explained that the bill they introduced and pushed Congress to pass, the Promoting Travel, Commerce, and National Security Act of 2016, will expand U.S. jurisdiction over the American Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents that are operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements.
“Improving commercial and passenger travel across the Peace Bridge has been one of my highest priorities for Buffalo and Western New York, which is why I have fought so hard for pre-clearance, ” said Senator Charles E. Schumer. “Moving the cargo prescreening process to the Canadian side of the border, where space is more readily available, will reduce pressure on the U.S. Plaza, alleviating delays and backups for passengers and commercial traffic alike. This legislation holds tremendous potential, not just for the flexibility it can provide for the Peace Bridge, but, once implemented, it will enhance safety and boost the Western New York economy and the tourism industry, and strengthen Amtrak operations in the North Country and Niagara Falls, as well as air cargo operations across the state. As Senator, I have been working on pre-clearance with several Administrations – including Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Johnson – and now using this new legislation to implement pre-clearance will be one of the first things I will raise to the incoming Administration.”
“I’m very pleased this legislation has passed the Senate and is heading to the President’s desk to be signed into law,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Making the pre-inspection at the Peace Bridge permanent will enhance the security of the transfer of goods and services across the border, boost New York’s economy, and preserve and strengthen our economic ties with Canada.”
Schumer and Gillibrand said this new legislation would ensure American citizens and federal government workers are subject to U.S. law and legal protections when working at the pre-clearance location just across the border in Canada, where they would be working to pre-clear passengers traveling from the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge. The Senators and Congressman said that, right now, passengers on this line are stopped at the U.S. side of the border – often for more than an hour – while CBP clears vehicles, and commercial traffic, causing backups and delays.
Schumer and Gillibrand who have long worked together on the pre-inspection efforts at the Peace Bridge, said this new program is the critical next step in reducing delays and congestion at the border crossing – especially during the Summer months. In addition, pre-inspection can also be used to reduce pressure on the U.S. plaza, and help pave the way for future efforts to improve traffic flow and reduce pollution at the Peace Bridge.
Following Schumer’s tireless efforts, a pre-inspection pilot program kicked off in February 2014 and proved highly successful in reducing congestion and delays at the Western NY border crossing. Schumer and Gillibrand said providing the legal authority was the next step in moving toward full implementation of permanent pre-inspection. By moving the cargo prescreening process to the Canadian side of the border, where space is readily available, it will reduce pressure on the Peace Bridge plaza on the American side. In addition, a more efficient inspection process in Canada will result in fewer delays for truckers carrying goods into the United States, for tourists, and for day visitors seeking to take in Sabres or Bills games, or to shop or dine at New York restaurants. It would greatly improve commerce between businesses on both sides of the border.
Currently, 100 percent of all trucks must go through a congested screening process on the American side of the border, and as that congestion builds it has an adverse impact on air quality and commerce and causes backups across the bridge and into Canada. Following the full implementation of the pre-inspection program, it is estimated that 90 percent of truck traffic would be fully cleared on the Canadian side, with approximately 10% requiring additional screening in the United States.