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APR 28 - MAY 05, 2015

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to both GSA and CBP

April 28, 2015

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to both GSA and CBP appears below:

Dear Administrator Tangherlini and Commissioner Kerlikowske:

The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and Plaza, which is owned and operated by the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC), is critically important to the Western New York economy. The bridge provides a vital link between the United States and Canada and helps to support billions of dollars in trade each year. Over three million passenger vehicles cross the bridge each year alone, and the bridge supports the fourth highest volume of commercial traffic on the Northern Border. Despite it’s critical importance to the US economy, investment in the US plaza in Lewiston, NY has been neglected in recent years. As a result, the current plaza facilities are outdated and cannot effeciently support the volume of traffic currently crossing the bridge, causing significant wait times and delays at the border. In an effort to address this issue, I urge you both to work together to invest in a plaza expansion and renovation project in partnership with the NFBC.

Over the last year, both GSA and CBP have been engaged in an ongoing discussion with the NFBC on a plaza improvement project. This discussion has centered around a $64 million improvement project that would address a number of issues at the bridge. Specifically, the plan would add five additional inspection lanes for passenger vehicles and replace six of the existing passenger lanes. In addition, the plan would replace the existing hi-low lanes and one of the existing commercial inspection lanes. Finally, the plan would add an additional bus processing lane, expand parking both for officers and secondary inspection, and expand the outdoor canopy. The cost of this project, which totals $64 million, is more than reasonable and the NFBC is willing to help share in the capital expenses. By advancing this project CBP and GSA can help reduce wait times and congestion at the bridge and grow the regional economy.

Under current circumstances wait times on the busiest 50-70 days per year can regularly exceed one hour and have peaked at over three hours. Delays like this can have a detrimental impact on the regional economy which is dependent on Canadian shoppers regularly and efficiently crossing the border. In fact, 82% of the value of goods sold at the Fashion Outlet Mall in Niagara County are purchased by Canadian shoppers, and 70% of passengers at the Niagara Falls Airport are Canadian travelers. Furthermore, the growth of regional efforts, like the Niagara Wine Trail and downtown Niagara Falls, are dependent on visitors from Canada. Adding additional inspection and bus processing lanes will help ensure that New York State businesses can tap into this growing Canadian market.

The cost of this project, which must be approved by both CBP and GSA, can be amortized over a long-term lease allowing your agencies to defray the cost in any one budget window. Specifically, with the current proposal, the cost to CBP and GSA would be an additional $1.7 million per year over 20 years. Considering that the Canadian Government, in partnership with the NFBC, recently invested over $140million into the Canadian side of this plaza, it is entirely reasonable to request a $30 million investment from the U.S. government. In addition to the long-term benefit to the regional economy, this project would also help to create or sustain over 1,500 jobs. Given these factors, I urge you to immediately enter into an agreement with the NFBC to advance this project to the design and construction phase. We cannot further delay investment into this plaza.

I appreciate your consideration of this request; should you need additional information please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator





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