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Schumer says loss of border agents slowing bridge traffic

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Senator Charles Schumer says increasing delays at the Peace Bridge are a threat to the economic recovery of Western New York. New York's senior senator told reporters Monday there may have been as many as 60 border enforcement staff transferred out and sent to the Mexican border in 18 months. The Homeland Security Department told him its practice is not to comment on staffing.

Schumer said on Sunday, delays coming into the U.S. at the Peace Bridge ran an hour.

"What makes this even more frustrating is despite over an hour wait, three lanes remained closed because lack of staff. Closed lanes while traffic is backed up is a far too frequent sight at the Peace Bridge and it is unacceptable," Schumer said.

Schumer says the region's economy needs quick travel across Niagara River bridges to continue developing burgeoning economic relationships with Canada.

"Everybody knows that the solution is not complicated. It's not an infrastructure problem, it's just a staffing problem," he said.

Schumer says Washington is close to starting pre-clearance of trucks in Fort Erie to speed movement, but he says that won't do any good if there aren't enough people staffing booths at the bridge or if they are taken away to work in Fort Erie.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.