Peace Bridge in truck inspection pilot program

Posted on March 14th, 2013

Buffalo Business First (March 14, 2013)

A bi-national program that would allow for the inspection of U.S.-bound commercial goods to take place on Canadian soil has reached a significant milestone.

A formal memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Canada was signed Thursday, allowing for the Peace Bridge to serve as one of two pilot, test areas.

The MOU was signed by Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security and her Canadian counterpart, Vic Toews, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety.

The program, one of the key elements in bi national “Beyond the Border” action plan, will allow for the primary inspection of U.S.-bound commercial goods to take place on Canadian land near major border crossings. Blaine, Wash., has been selected for the first pilot program and the Peace Bridge will serve as a second pilot site.

The Peace Bridge’s pilot program is slated to start next year.

“The implementation of the truck cargo pre-inspection pilot will aim to further enhance the economic and national security of both of our nations,” Napolitano said in a prepared release.

The entire pilot program may last as long as 18 months after which agencies in the U.S. and Canada will determine what needs to be tweaked or if the program should continue.

“The economic future of Western New York will be linked to our integration with Canada,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, a member of the House of Representatives Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs as well as the US-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Group. “The Beyond the Border Action Plan was symbolic of that, and this agreement is a concrete step in that direction.”

By having primary truck inspections conducted on the Canadian plaza of the Peace Bridge will help address concerns about parked and idling commercial vehicles on the U.S. plaza that impacts the surrounding neighborhood.

The pilot program is the latest effort to improve the U.S. plaza. That includes last week’s announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Higgins that $22 million has been allocated to improve the Peace Bridge’s gateway image by restoring Front Park to its original Frederick Law Olmsted design and shifting traffic away from the park.

Work on a new, $20 million U.S. Customs Commercial Building is scheduled to start this year.

By James Fink