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Officials push for pre-screening at Peace Bridge

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A decision on whether the Peace Bridge will be the site of a pilot program for easing congestion at northern border crossings could be announced in about 60 days. 

In a written statement, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is "on board with the plan."  Governor Andrew Cuomo is also urging Napolitano to choose the Peace Bridge.  

Along with Schumer and Cuomo, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, and Congressman Brian Higgins also support the pre-screening program.  Peace Bridge Authority Chairman Sam Hoyt said having federal, state and local elected leaders on board sends a powerful message.  Hoyt says he is not aware of any opposition from Fort Erie residents.

"The fact is...we have a very high concentration of residents...in the immediate vicinity of the plaza [in Buffalo]. It's very densely populated. It's far less densely populated on the Canadian side, number one. Number two, they have a much bigger plaza area which actually was designed to accommodate these additional trucks."

Higgins, a Homeland Security Committee member said Canada wants economic integration with the U.S. and it's time to implement pre-screening.                 

"I think what people in that [West Side] community need, or deserve, is a decision. We've been working at this for 25-years. And the fact of the matter is, the Peace Bridge was built 84-years ago. The population since that time, in southern Ontario, has grown by 350% [and it is] projected to grow another 3-million over the next decade and a half. Every aspect of western New York's economic viability is tied to predictable, reliable access, into and out of southern Ontario."

In a letter to Secretary Napolitano, Governor Cuomo said pre-screening would be an "early win" for the Beyond the Border agreement announced last year by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.