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BORDER BRIDGES GROUP CRITICIZES PASSPORT PLAN

Great Lakes bridge and tunnel operators Friday warned that the imposition of a passport requirement on travel between the United States and Canada "will end the spur-of-the-moment family vacation . . . to the Niagara Region."

The Bridge & Tunnel Operators Association said the plan would have such a dampening effect on traffic that many operators might find themselves unable to finance planned construction and repair projects.

The association, headed by Thomas Garlock, general manager of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, also warned that lower volumes could spur higher tolls and the need for government subsidies to keep facilities running.

The group represents all major international facilities on the northern border from the St. Lawrence River to the Blue Water Bridge in Michigan.

On April 5, the Bush administration announced it would require all travelers between the United States and Canada, including infants, to have passports as of Jan. 1, 2008.

On Thursday however, President Bush announced he wants the proposal reviewed, saying he is concerned about its impact on trade and tourism. The order would also affect the border with Mexico.

Nevertheless, government agencies are planning to raise identity requirements in some way.

While the State and Homeland Security Departments are reviewing the proposed mandate on land travel, Bush voiced no concerns about the plan to require passports in the future for air travel between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Meanwhile, the administration is proceeding with tightening identification requirements for all Western Hemisphere travel by Americans.

Christiana Halsey, spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said on Friday "an advance notice of a proposed rule" will probably be published next week in the Federal Register.

email: dturner@buffnews.com

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