U.S. and Canadian homeland security, transportation and economic development officials signed a roadmap Thursday to guide both countries in coordinating investments in customs facilities, bridges and other infrastructure along their shared border.
The U.S.-Canada Border Infrastructure Investment Plan is the latest initiative under President Obama's and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Beyond the Border declaration in 2011 to work on a shared approach to security and economic competitiveness designed to expedite lawful trade and travel.
“An integrated, bilateral approach to border investment is critical to both the U.S. and Canadian economies,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “The Border Infrastructure Investment Plan offers enhanced security along our shared U.S.-Canadian border, while reducing wait times at major border crossings — increasing the flow of traffic across the border while ensuring safe and secure trade and travel.”
The investment plan establishes an interagency, binational planning mechanism for upgrading existing facilities or building new ones and will be updated annually, the two governments said.
The joint border infrastructure plan follows on the heels of the Canadian government's recent decision to invest $123 million at four land ports of entry. The Lansdowne, Ontario border crossing located on the Canadian side of the Thousand Islands Bridge will get a $58 million upgrade, including a new customs inspection plaza. Improvements will also be made at the Lacolle, Quebec border crossing, which supported more than $20 billion in two-way trade in 2012; the Emerson, Manitoba crossing; and the North Portal, Saskatchewan checkpoint where the Canada Border Services Agency's commercial facility will be modernized.
A week ago, CBSA opened a second NEXUS lane at the Queenston-Lewiston bridge to speed the flow of low-risk travelers entering Canada. The NEXUS program allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing by U.S. and Canadian officials at dedicated processing lanes at designated northern border crossings, airports and ports. Approved applicants are issued a photo-ID card with an embedded radio frequency identification chip that transmits their information to a terminal in checkpoint officer's station. Six NEXUS lanes have been added under the Beyond the Border Action Plan.
Also, the Canadian government last summer completed a $1.7 million project with help from the United States to install technology to measure and report border wait times at the Peace Bridge (connecting to Buffalo) and the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge.
The United States and Canada have the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world, with two-way trade of $570 billion last year. - Eric Kulisch