Higgins Says Move to Reconsider Shared Border Management at Peace Bridge Would Mean More Delays and Money, Less Jobs and Economic Growth for WNY & the US
According to published reports by the media, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has agreed to re-open discussions on Shared Border Management, a move that Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) says would devastate progress on a new Peace Bridge.
“This would bring us right back to where we were two years ago when shared border management was deemed to be dead,” said Congressman Higgins. “Western New York residents and businesses are sick of studies and setbacks, they just want to see a bridge built that is both functional as well as architecturally substantial. This is a move in the wrong direction.”
From 2005 to 2007, the United States and Canada were engaged in negotiations to implement a land preclearance pilot project (also referred to as “shared border management”), which would have relocated the U.S. border inspection facility from the Buffalo, New York, side of the Peace Bridge to the Fort Erie, Ontario, side.
In 2007 Department of Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff declared Shared Border Management dead after it was determined that the two countries have conflicting laws and procedures on inspection and a compromise was unreachable.
Following the bi-national agreement that Shared Border Management would not work, the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a performance audit (Jan - September 2008) to ensure appropriate efforts were made.
GAO reported that: Officials from both countries agreed that negotiations were conducted in good faith…However, certain issues pertaining to each country’s sovereignty and the law enforcement authorities of U.S. CBP officers operating on Canadian soil could not be resolved. These issues included concerns over arrest authority; the right of individuals to withdraw an application to enter the United States while at the land preclearance site in Canada; mutually agreeable fingerprinting processes; how information collected by U.S. officials at the land preclearance site would be shared; and concerns that future interpretations of the Canadian Charter could adversely impact U.S. authorities at the preclearance site.
“Two years of negotiations and a nine month review concluded that Shared Border Management was not doable,” Higgins said. “Returning to a plan proven to be unattainable only creates more delays, false hope and continued uncertainty for the residents and businesses in the Peace Bridge neighborhood.”
The Congressman also fears delays based on the hope of Shared Border Management would result in a significant decrease or complete loss of the $25 million in gateway improvements planned on Buffalo’s West Side.
Congressman Higgins noted that each day lost on Peace Bridge setbacks equals opportunities lost for the regional economy. The greater Toronto region is the seventh largest metropolitan area in North American and second fastest growing, projected to increase to over 11.5 million people by the 2030s. Efficient transportation between Buffalo and Fort Erie is absolutely vital to the preservation of the Western New York economy and presents unique opportunities for economic growth.
“Western New York doesn’t have a tough time getting projects finished, we have a tough time getting projects started,” Higgins added. “Like others living in this region, I am frustrated. After years of work trying to move forward and get things done for the good of this community we have someone step in and push us three steps backward.”
Congressman Higgins pointed out that an American plaza means more American construction jobs. Under the each of the three now defunct Shared Border Management Plan alternatives, the US would be responsible for construction work associated with the road network connecting to the bridge, while Canadian contractors would be responsible for the plaza, which would be located on the Canadian side of the bridge. Under the American plaza plan, supported by Congressman Higgins, up to $69 million in US taxpayer funded construction work, which would have gone to Canada, would shift to US contractors, adding thousands of new construction jobs here locally.
Based on a Federal Highway Administration formula which converts project investment dollars into job creation numbers, construction of an American Peace Bridge plaza and surrounding infrastructure will create approximately 2688 construction jobs for US workers. Construction of the bridge itself will result in thousands of additional jobs for both US and Canadian construction workers. According to the Peace Bridge Environmental Impact Statement, total construction job counts are expected to reach approximately 4800.
“We spent decades debating and studying the Peace Bridge, now is the time for action. Western New York needs and deserves a span we can be proud of and one that facilitates capacity that will foster economic growth,” Higgins concluded.