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Honeymoon Capital looks to attract more trucks

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - Plans to expand the Peace Bridge that links Ontario to New York State may have stalled, but one nearby community is looking to attract a greater share of the international truck ...

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. – Plans to expand the Peace Bridge that links Ontario to New York State may have stalled, but one nearby community is looking to attract a greater share of the international truck traffic that rolls through the region.

The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission has announced that it will spend $300,000 to build a third truck lane on the U.S. side of the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, while it has also revived plans to add a second deck on the Whirlpool Bridge to handle trucks.

Granted, the construction to begin this summer on the Lewiston, N.Y. side of the Niagara River is a simpler plan than the one suggested for the aging 103-year-old span within walking distance of the world-renowned Falls. But the Whirlpool plan is a 10-year-old idea that has found government approval in the past.

Under the project that could cost anywhere from $40 million to $150 million, the railroad crossing that sits atop the bridge could be converted into a route for pre-cleared trucks. On the upper end of the price spectrum is a new bridge.

There has been unprecedented growth in the volume of traffic that has crossed the Niagara Frontier in recent years. At the Lewiston-Queenston crossing, commercial traffic has increased by about seven per cent so far this year, with a 20 per cent increase happening in the past three years. About 232,000 trucks now cross the span in a year.

“As traffic planners, we have to look at the broad picture, the entire Niagara Frontier — U.S. and Canadian, from Buffalo-Fort Erie through to Lewiston-Queenston,” says Niagara Falls Bridge Commission general manager Allen Gandell. “We don’t want the negative publicity about over-capacity at one bridge to impact on the whole economic zone.”

While plans to build a twin span for the Peace Bridge at nearby Fort Erie, Ont. have stalled because of opposition from groups in Buffalo who want a single, “signature span” to grace their skyline, that wasn’t the only factor promoting the idea, Gandell insists. “These are just an acceleration of our plans that have been there for some time.”

The third truck lane at the Lewiston-Queenston span will be completed by September. But plans for the up-river Whirlpool crossing will depend on reaction within the community.

“We need a better way of processing trucks. A lot of the problems that we get are trucks waiting behind other people who aren’t cleared,” Gandell says of the need. With the new dedicated lanes for pre-cleared traffic – split off at the intersection of Hwy. 405 and the QEW, or Interstates 92 and 90 – trips could go faster than ever, he said.

Regardless of the approach, tolls would fund the project, Gandell said. “Tolls eventually pay for everything.”

If the Whirlpool’s railway tracks were completely replaced, two daily Amtrack trains would have to be re-routed through the nearby Michigan Central Railroad Bridge. But Gandell says the upper deck could simply have three lanes, with one dedicated to the railway. n

U.S. kills plans to record every entry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. has officially dropped plans to require a record of the entry and exit of every visitor crossing the border – a program that threatened traffic chaos at many international crossings.

Congress amended Section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act on Friday with a new Bill entitled the Immigration and Naturalization Service Data Management Improvement Act of 2000. The revised version still requires a new database system to better track crossings by aliens, who now require entry visas. But for most Canadian truckers, it means business as usual.

The U.S. attorney-general had wanted a new automated entry and exit control system that would record every departure and match them with arrivals. At the time of the announcement, one INS official told Truck News that any such system would have had to transcend the electronic reading of licence plates or transponders, since that wouldn’t be enough to determine who was actually in a vehicle.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance had suggested such a system could create line-ups of between five and 17 hours at many border crossings.

The 1996 Act would have required an automated system to be developed by September 1998. Ironically, it didn’t attract much attention until media reports in 1997.

“I am hopeful that passage of this legislation and the elimination of additional entry and exit requirements is an indication that Congress has a better understanding of how important trade is, not only to the neighbors to the north, but to the U.S. as well,” said Canadian Trucking Alliance president David Bradley, referring to the news. The federal government had been involved in diplomatic discussions over the issue through embassy staff in Washington, D.C. n

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