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Bipartisan bill to improve border crossings deserves broad support

What’s not to like in a bipartisan bill that would ease border crossings and help grow the economy while reducing pollution?

While inspections of U.S.-bound cargo are not immediately headed to the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge, this measure will offer the catalyst for the Department of Homeland Security. As Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said, making pre-inspection a reality at the Peace Bridge is critical. It is the next step.

Toward that end, legislators have introduced, and others are pushing, the Promoting Travel, Commerce and National Security Act of 2016.

The bill would expand U.S. jurisdiction over American Customs and Border Protection agents operating in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements that the United States reaches with its northern neighbors.

Local lawmakers have made clear that they expect such an agreement when it comes to the Peace Bridge. The bridge is infamous for backups, regardless of whether the reputation is justifiable or exaggerated. It depends on who you ask, what time of day and possibly which way the wind is blowing.

One thing is certain: Buffalo is finally standing on the precipice of change and of relieving what is real congestion at the Peace Bridge. And when bipartisan support is gathered on just about any issue during these politically contentious times, it is noteworthy.

Schumer has taken the lead on pre-inspection pilot programs and has worked doggedly to make the preclearance pilot programs permanent, if deemed successful. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, also pushed for the Department of Homeland Security to include the Peace Bridge in the pilot project.

The pre-inspection bill is both bipartisan and mostly noncontroversial in part because of a pre-inspection pilot project at the Peace Bridge in 2014 that was largely considered a success.

As recently reported in The News, preclearance deals also could be struck at other U.S.-Canada border crossings, thus the Promoting Travel, Commerce and National Security Act of 2016 has captured the interest of those along the northern border.

It has also captured the political hearts and minds of key local lawmakers. In addition to Schumer, Higgins and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, one of the co-sponsors, touted the qualities of the bill.

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., introduced the bill in the House, along with several Republican co-sponsors, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican from Willsboro who represents New York’s North Country.

Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced the Senate’s bill, also with several co-sponsors, including Gillibrand.

As Schumer said, the legislation “will bring us one step closer to speeding up traffic, reducing horrible wait times, improving the flow of commerce and decreasing pollution from idling trucks on the American plaza for years to come.”

Congress should pass this bill.