BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A pilot program that will be in place for the next six months at the Peace Bridge may have nearby residents breathing a little easier.
The program, a joint effort between Public Safety Canada and the Department of Homeland Security, aims to improve the flow of traffic at the nation’s second busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will be working on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge to pre-screen trucks coming into Buffalo.
Canadian Minister of Defense Robert Nicholson said, “It doesn’t benefit just Western New York and Southern Ontario. This is what helps make the relationship work, that trading relationship between Canada and the United States.”
The two countries launched the first truck pre-screening program at the border between the state of Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. The Peace Bridge program is Phase II of the pilot program and is part of the “Beyond the Border” action plan between U.S. and Canadian officials promoting cross-border trade, amounting to one trillion dollars a year.
Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, “[It] will help us determine whether we can reduce wait times, and speed trade by having customs and border protection inspect U.S.-bound cargo in Canada.”
Senator Charles Schumer says the project is critical for the economic vitality of both Western New York and Southern Ontario.
“If you clog up the artery, you can’t get that trade flowing. So that is why we persisted above all, for economic reasons,” Sen. Schumer said.
And the program should also cut down on idling trucks on the American side. Some say the “stop gap measure” is providing relief to residents who have long complained of truck emissions while officials work on a more permanent solution.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Building more capacity, to reduce wait times, to expedite the movement of trucks who are idling.”
Officials expect the pilot program to continue for a year, but a number of West Side residents living near the bridge claim they have been left out of the planning process.