U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, and his Canadian counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, have jointly reaffirmed their commitment to speed up truck inspections at the U.S.-Canada border after releasing the fifth Smart Border Action Plan status report.
The report notes a pilot pre-clearance project at the Buffalo-Fort Erie, Ont. Peace Bridge that would relocate commercial truck and passenger vehicle traffic from the congested Buffalo checkpoint to Fort Erie. The report says Canadian-bound inspections may be moved to the Thousand Islands Bridge or Queenston-Lewiston.
Other initiatives noted in the report included:
- the finalization of Canadian and U.S. regulations for the Safe Third Party Agreement, with implementation to follow “shortly”;
- the decision to expand U.S. pre-clearance facilities to the Halifax International Airport when the infrastructure is completed;
- the expansion of the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) program along seven commercial crossings.
Secretary Ridge and Prime Minister McLellan have also met with stakeholders of the Windsor-Detroit crossing to discuss bottleneck issues.
“We are making progress at improving flows across the Windsor-Detroit Gateway, and we are prepared to do more,” said McLellan. “Secretary Ridge and I today met today with bridge, tunnel and ferry operators, and together we have committed to reduce transit times across the Windsor-Detroit Gateway by an additional 25% over the next year.”
“The 25% Challenge is an ambitious and an achievable goal. We are committed to providing the leadership and the investments necessary to improving flows through this critical trade corridor,” said Ridge.
McLellan said the Canada Border Services Agency is now hiring 30 additional officers to increase the capacity to process commercial traffic at Windsor by an estimated 20%.
Secretary Ridge and Deputy Prime Minister McLellan tasked officials to finalize the development of a next generation Smart Border agenda, as committed to by Prime Minister Martin and President Bush in the New Partnership in North America joint statement, released following their meeting in Ottawa on November 30, 2004.