Niagara Gazette

December 20, 2013

Border concerns aired

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette —

A pair of Western New York leaders from opposite sides of the political aisle have joined forces in an effort to address staffing issues that they say have contributed to longer waits at area border crossings.

In a joint release issued Friday, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Niagara Falls, and U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, announced that they have sent a letter to the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in hopes of getting more information about staffing levels at the Peace Bridge and other local crossings such as the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. 

Both representatives expressed concern that staffing deficits are contributing to delays and unreasonably long wait times at the key crossing between the U.S. and Canada. 

“Western New York’s economy relies on the ease and accessibility of moving people and goods across the border,” Higgins said. “If congestion at the Peace Bridge is impeding cross border commerce, this is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. I am committed to making sure we take the steps necessary to ease these delays.”

Their letter was directed to acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Thomas Winkowski. In it, the Congressmen note that increasing delays at the Peace Bridge pose a significant threat to the Western New York region’s economy, writing, in part: “Every year the bridge facilitates the transport of over $30 billion in commerce across the Niagara River, spurring $227.4 billion in economic activity, and supporting one million jobs.”

Additionally, they noted that Canadians purchase approximately 20 percent of Buffalo Bills and 24 percent of Buffalo Sabres season tickets, 38 percent of airline passengers flying out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport are Canadian and more than 3,000 Canadian students attend college in the Buffalo Niagara region.

Last week, Higgins and Collins met with representatives from CBP in Washington, D.C. to express their concerns with wait times at the Peace Bridge.

 “Unreasonably long wait times and delays at the Peace Bridge are more than just an inconvenience to travelers, they are a direct hit to our local economy,” Collins said.  “Stats show wait time at the Peace Bridge has doubled from year to year and the scope of this problem at similar crossing points – such as the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge – remains unclear.   CBP needs to focus on addressing this growing problem before it weakens the economy of Western New York.”