LEWISTON, N.Y.-The Bridge & Tunnel Operators Association has expressed concern that the proposed requirement by the U.S. Department of State that all persons entering the U.S. carry passports, including American and Canadian citizens, would have an extensive and damaging impact upon border communities, the economies of 38 states, every province, and the ability of crossing operators to fund border infrastructure improvements.
The association is composed of ten organizations which are responsible for the operation of eleven of the major crossings between the United States and Canada.
The new rule, scheduled for implementation on January 1, 2008 at the land border, would designate a passport and other, limited, forms of citizenship identification for all persons seeking to enter the U.S. At present, driver’s licenses and birth certificates are among the acceptable documents for identification.
“Making passports mandatory will end almost all casual travel over the border and threaten the close personal ties that border communities have shared for 150 years,” noted BTOA President Thomas Garlock.
“Many crossings serve one community that happens to be divided by a river. All organizations responsible for any facet of border operations are committed to security, but both countries are well advised to be cautious in regard to the law of unintended consequences. This will clearly have an impact on the economic life of border regions,” said Philip Becker, BTOA Vice- President.
Further, all crossing operators are concerned that their financial positions will be jeopardized by lower volumes, leading to a need to increase tolls or, for the first time, subsidies for their operations from taxpayer sources.
This would come at a time when many of the crossings are engaged in capital projects intended to support border security and the facilitation of trade.
The bonds issued for such projects are supported by toll revenues. Operators will ask that the Department of State identify alternative approaches to support the regulation’s goals and will work with the Department in that effort.
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