About a month after calling a news conference at the Peace Bridge to complain about the long line of trucks crawling across the international span, Sen. Charles M. Schumer on Saturday said there may be some relief in sight.
Schumer, D-N.Y., said he secured a commitment for more border patrol agents at the bridge from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson – that is, if the senator is successful in obtaining more funding for Customs and Border Protections in the fiscal year 2014 Senate appropriations bill currently being negotiated.
“I am confident we will get an increase in border patrol agents, now that sequestration over,” said Schumer, referring to the automatic cuts in federal spending required in the 2013 fiscal year.
“This will go a long way towards alleviating the backups on the Peace Bridge, which have been so harmful to commerce in Buffalo and Western New York,” Schumer said.
“I spoke to Secretary Johnson on Friday and he told me that if we get the funding for an increase in number of border patrol agents, we will see more agents and resources sent to the Peace Bridge,” Schumer added.
On Dec. 2, Schumer, at the Peace Bridge, called on Customs and Border Protections officials to provide an explanation for increased wait times and lane closings. At that time, the senator released data showing average peak wait times increased to 29.4 minutes in 2013, up from 21.2 minutes in 2012 for commercial vehicles. Peak wait times for passenger vehicles increased to 26.4 minutes in 2013, up from 17.9 minutes in 2012.
Customs and Border Protections officials later confirmed the increases in wait times on the bridge.
“With wait times up this year, we need more agents inspecting cars and trucks at this busy border crossing, so that more lanes are open, congestion can be alleviated and economic activity can increase,” Schumer said.
“I’m thrilled that Secretary Johnson agrees, and I will continue my lobbying efforts with my colleagues on the appropriations committee to boost ... funding,” he added.
Schumer said more border patrol agents will help address long wait times at the international span and help ensure the success of the commercial-truck pre-inspection pilot program that is expected to begin this month.
Specific 2014 funding-level increases for Customs and Border Protections are scheduled to be released by Wednesday.