804-557-0188

Trucks heading south from Ontario into New York may find traffic moving more smoothly this year.

On Monday, Feb. 24, American and Canadian officials announced the launch of a pilot program for pre-inspecting commercial truck traffic at the Peace Bridge, easing the flow of traffic with shorter waits and increased capacity at the third busiest land crossing between the two nations.

The Peace Bridge crosses the Niagara River between Buffalo, New York, and Fort Erie, Ontario. Because of its connection to major arteries, the bridge shoulders a large amount of commercial traffic.

Representatives from both countries approved the Peace Bridge Authority’s plans to increase commercial vehicle traffic capacity by 72 percent, by building and operating a pre-inspection facility for US-bound trucks on the roomier Canadian side of the bridge. The facility, which would include inspections booths, offices and parking, will handle all of the initial customs paperwork, “This pilot project will enhance the movement of people and goods across the Canada-U.S. border,” said Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence and Niagara Falls MP.

“The joint efforts of the United States and Canada are key to expediting the secure flow of commerce and improving the economic opportunity of our two countries,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Mayorkas called the pilot program “another key Beyond the Border success,” referring to a 2011 meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The meeting resulted in the signing of a ‘Beyond the Border’ action plan, intended to lower trade and travel barriers between the US and Canada.

For several years, lawmakers have wanted to relocate part of the inspection work from Buffalo to Fort Erie. Obstacles included resistance toward stationing armed U.S. officers on Canadian soil. Canada has only recently armed its border officers.

According to ezbordercrossing.com, over a million trucks cross the Peace Bridge every year, and general traffic delays can be as long as four hours at peak periods. The website reports that “traffic is heaviest May through September, with Friday being the most congested day of the week,” and that “roughly ten percent of commercial traffic is referred to secondary inspection at this port.” For truckers, time spent crossing the border can cut into federal limits.

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., hopes that fewer idling engines on the bridge will also improve air quality. Children living on the Buffalo side of the bridge have tested as having a high rate of asthma.

The PBA closed the week by naming Sam Hoyt as its new chairman on February 28. Outgoing chairman Anthony M. Annunziata reminded members of the PBA of the need for unified support of planned improvements to the bridge, built in 1927.