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Pilot program would place U.S. inspectors in Fort Erie

WBFO News file photo

After years of rejecting the concept, authorities on both sides of the border have agreed to allow U.S. inspectors to conduct truck searches in Fort Erie.

The Buffalo News reports an 18-month pilot program at the Peace Bridge and at an international crossing in Washington state will be monitored to see if traffic flow can be improved without compromising security.

Activists seeking to scale down the planned expansion of the Peace Bridge inspection plaza on Buffalo's west side have pleaded to federal authorities to use the spacious Fort Erie plaza for some or all of its inspection procedures.

Rep. Brian Higgins says pre-inspection will help open up the traffic bottleneck that so often occurs on the bridge, allowing for a freer flow of goods and people between the two nations. 

"It is a mess up there. You have a very small footprint for a lot of activity," Higgins said Tuesday. "This is way, administratively, of trying to make more efficient the flow of traffic between the United States and Canada."

"It's good for the economy, it's good for transportation purposes, and it's also very good for the environment and air quality. It's idling diesel engines that are stuck on the bridge and stuck on the plaza that trigger asthma in kids."

Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority Chairman Sam Hoyt says, in a statement, the authority is extremely supportive of commercial pre-inspection and hopes to see the pilot phase implemented quickly. 

The program is expected to begin in December. At the end of the 18 months, an assessment will be made as to whether the change should be permanent.