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High-tech option could ease border congestion

WBFO File Photo

Analysts are predicting one of the busiest holiday travel seasons in recent years. Prior to the holiday rush,  officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection released the "Border Wait Time App," which offers options that could ease some delays.

WBFO News spoke with public affairs liaison Richard Misztal from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who provided information on the app and offered some tips for travelers.

"This app was just launched last week. So, it's very new. Our commissioner came in and had a press conference to demonstrate to the media," Misztal said.

"What it does, it's for use on your smart phones. This day and age everybody has a smart phone. So, it's a way for travelers to use their smart phone to see what their cross-border travel is going to be."

Misztal said the app can locate the three points of entry that are closest to a travelers locations. It will then map the best route.

"For example, here in the local area, the app allows travelers in the Buffalo, New York, area to compare wait times at the Peace Bridge, the Rainbow Bridge and Lewiston-Queenston Bridge," Misztal said.

Though it was developed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Misztal assures that "it doesn't require individuals who register to provide any personal information whatsoever."

"CBP does not store or have any access to information regarding travelers who use the app, either."

 Beyond the "Border Wait Time App," Misztal offered some other tips to ease cross-border travel issues.

"Have the appropriate travel documents. Have your passport, passport card, enhanced driver's license," Misztal said.

"Children 16-and-under don't have to have the passport, etc. They could cross with a birth certificate still. A school id, which seems to be issued at most schools these days, to support that birth certificate, that's always helpful for us."

More tips are available at www.cbp.gov

Moving forward, Misztal suggests travelers examine the benefits of the NEXUS program. He says 150,000 people in Western New York and Southern Ontario are enrolled in the program. Nationwide, there are one million NEXUS participants.

"It allows pre-screened travelers to proceed with little or no delay into U.S. or Canada. Nice thing in this area is that we have the Whirlpool Bridge, which is a Nexus-only bridge.  And that bridge is open from 7am to 11pm," Misztal said.

"It saves you time. You're pre-screened, so you're considered to be a trusty traveler. That allows us to put our focus on people who aren't trusted travelers."