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Upgrades at Lewiston-Queenston Bridge will provide an economic boost for WNY

Crossing the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, a discouraging crawl that can last hours, should become a lot quicker when just-announced upgrades are completed.

Ease of access is important to commerce on both sides of the border, and congestion at Lewiston-Queenston made travel anything but easy. The work should also improve the spirits of those traveling back and forth between the United States and Canada, as they will no longer have to face intolerable delays.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., came to Western New York to announce that two federal agencies, Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration, have given final approval to a $50 million modernization plan.

The transformative plan for the U.S. plaza, built in 1962, is expected to create more than 1,200 jobs. While most are temporary construction jobs, reliable travel over the bridge opens the door to new business.

As reported in The News, the number of inspection lanes for incoming automobile traffic will be increased from six to nine, and the four lanes for trucks will be expanded to six.

Adding to traffic relief will be a new separate lane for processing buses, along with new booths, a new canopy and an access tunnel. The current cramped administration and secondary processing building, a single-story, 5,257-square-foot structure, will be replaced with a two-story facility with more than 16,000 square feet on each floor.

It is all designed to ease cross-border travel for Canadian shoppers who want to reach their favorite destinations and for Western New Yorkers who likewise enjoy visiting Toronto, Niagara-on the-Lake and elsewhere without having to worry whether they will be stuck in lengthy lines of traffic.

Schumer back in April promised to work hard to improve the plaza and reduce chronic congestion at the bridge, where wait times range up to three hours. He deserves credit for getting the job done.

Schumer’s considerable political clout made the difference. As Francis A. Soda, a U.S. member of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, said, there was a reluctance to commit – by the federal government, that is – until the senator got involved.

Reliably efficient travel over the Niagara River is a boost for all of Western New York, even if you never cross the border. As Schumer said, “the increased commerce from Canada will protect and sustain countless other jobs all over Western New York.”

This economic shot in the arm, such a long time coming, is finally tantalizingly close.