A campaign to get more drivers to use NEXUS cards when crossing the international border is being kicked off today.
Meanwhile, the Canada Border Services Agency announced in Niagara Falls, Ont., that a NEXUS inspection lane was officially opened Wednesday at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge over the lower Niagara River.
Proponents of expanding the program, which prescreens travelers and promises shorter wait times at international bridges along the Niagara Frontier, believe that the increase in use of NEXUS cards will reduce congestion at border crossings.
About 30 local businesses, offices and organizations have agreed to participate in what's being described as a grass-roots marketing campaign for the NEXUS program.
Officials from the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, along with representatives of some of the participating organizations, are holding an event to announce the "NEXUS Niagara" initiative this morning at Empire State Development Corp. in downtown Buffalo.
The participating businesses and organizations, which are on both sides of the border, will include information about the NEXUS program in their own marketing materials, including print and online. On the U.S. side, the participants include several Chambers of Commerce, the Walden Galleria, the Hotel Motel Association of Western New York and Visit Buffalo Niagara.
On the Canadian side, participants include Fort Erie Racetrack, the City of Niagara Falls, Ont., and the St. Catharines-Thorold Chamber of Commerce.
The more NEXUS card users there are, the more dedicated lanes for the cards will be opened on area bridges, easing traffic congestion, said Matthew N. Davison, communications director for the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, which operates the Peace Bridge.
The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission operates the Lewiston-Queenston, Whirlpool Rapids and Rainbow bridges in Niagara County.
About 81,000 travelers reguarly use the program locally, Davison said. The cost for a NEXUS card is $50, and it's good for five years.
"The NEXUS lane on the heavily traveled Lewiston-Queenston Bridge will improve the flow of legitimate trade and travel while enhancing security," Vic Toews, Ontario's public safety minister, said Wednesday. The NEXUS lane there is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, with expanded hours for special events.
As part of the initiative, bridge officials also are launching a new website, www.nexusniagara.com.
News Niagara Reporter Richard E. Baldwin contributed to this report.