Congressman Higgins Says Fed Agencies Moving Toward Smaller Peace Bridge Plaza
Today Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) confirmed federal agencies involved in Peace Bridge expansion project are moving toward consensus on a reduced footprint for the U.S. Plaza. The news comes after Congressman Higgins’ call on Wednesday afternoon with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin. In April Congressman Higgins wrote to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requesting an expedited effort on the Peace Bridge construction project including consideration of a reduced footprint for the American plaza.
“The direct engagement of the U.S. government in the process and a consensus on a reduced Peace Bridge plaza puts real steam behind what we see as the first phase of creating the increased capacity so critical to the Western New York – Southern Ontario economic relationship,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the House of Representatives Committees on Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs. “This is a way forward that brings certainty to the neighborhood, adds predictability for travelers and could mean shovels in the ground significantly sooner.”
In March, when Congressman Higgins met with United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to discuss the Peace Bridge, the USDOT made it clear the project was a priority.
Discussions are currently underway on a smaller plaza that would continue to provide 7 additional inspection booths, as proposed by the Peace Bridge expansion project, but do so on a smaller footprint that reduces the proposed new plaza by 12 acres and reduces the residence acquisition to only one property.
In addition the smaller plaza design would accommodate the potential future incorporation of initial screenings on the Canadian side of the border, also known as pre-inspection, not to be confused with pre-clearance or shared border management, an issue confirmed “dead” by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano. Better joint border coordination was one of the items outlined in “Beyond the Borders” following a meeting between U.S. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper in February.
The Peace Bridge Authority (PBA) is also supportive of the proposed smaller plaza concepts and is willing to advance them swiftly. The smaller plaza would cost significantly less and the project would be funded by the PBA directly.
"With our work on Buffalo's waterfront we have witnessed the great progress that can happen with incremental achievements that are continually moving the ball forward," added Higgins. "This step toward a smaller plaza brings us closer toward our much larger goal -- because the Western New York economy and the jobs directly linked to our cross border efficiency can't afford to wait."