U.S. and Canadian officials should agree it is in the interest of both countries to improve a program that speeds travel across the border bridges.
The leaders of the agencies running the Buffalo and Niagara County bridges have targeted for improvement the NEXUS program, which allows preapproved travelers to use designated lanes on the bridges to bypass the often-congested immigration booths.
In a letter to U.S. and Canadian officials overseeing the border, Linda McAusland, chairwoman of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, and Sam Hoyt, chairman of the Peace Bridge Authority, speak of the potential for growth for the program that handled 1.6 million border crossings last year – a record.
They believe that the program could involve 50 percent of motorists, and that would essentially eliminate border wait times. That would greatly benefit both countries. Reliably short waits on the bridges would encourage cross-border travel and trade. Security would be enhanced because border officers would be concentrating on travelers who haven’t been vetted.
Here’s how to get there:
• Extend the period that NEXUS cards are valid from five years to 10 years.
• Modernize and simplify the Global Online Enrollment System. Right now, the officials contend the site is difficult to navigate and frustrating for users.
• Reduce the processing time from initial application to the required interview, which now often extends to at least three to four months. This wait time discourages enrollment.
• As applications are approved, allow interviews to be conducted by either U.S. or Canadian border officials.
• Ensure that U.S. and Canadian border agencies continuously monitor NEXUS booth staffing to open additional NEXUS lanes when needed. As the letter said: “It is a major disincentive when NEXUS queues are longer than regular lane queues.”
The suggestions might bolster a program that benefits both countries, but especially this region, which depends on Canadian visitors to help feed the local economy. Americans return the favor when they visit Canada.
Improving the NEXUS program will benefit both countries.