Friday, January 19, 2007

Border woes, north

A Peace Bridge design favored by Canadians, according to the Buffalo News.

This made me laugh out loud, so I should share.

For many years, certainly beginning well before the last time I spent a chunk of time in Buffalo, New York in 1999, civic leaders have been mumbling about replacing the "Peace Bridge" across the Niagara River to and from Canada. This was a fairly sleepy span in my youth. But NAFTA increased the amount of truck traffic (if not local economic well-being) through the area and the bridge simply can't handle the volume.

According to the Buffalo News, the latest hold up with the Peace Bridge, lasting since 2004, has been a dispute with Canadian authorities about how to solve what the U.S. Homeland Security Department insists is a very important problem: how to handle drivers on the Canadian side who approach and then decide at the last minute to stay in Canada. The U.S. authorities want to send them to a clearance station and make them go through a fingerprint scan. The Canadians have balked at this requirement.

U.S. Congresscritter Louise Slaughter (D-NY28) met recently with the Canadian Ambassador and the Canadian minister for Public Safety to try to get the bridge project unstuck.

Slaughter said Canadian officials tell her their laws would prohibit [the fingerprinting requirement], unless there's some probable cause.

"It's against their law," Slaughter told The Buffalo News. "In all my life, I thought it was against ours."

You go, Ms. Congresswoman!

No resolution was reached. There may be no bridge -- because someone who changes his mind can't be fingerprinted by those legalistic Canadians. Wonder how the existing bridge will hold up when, in a few months, everyone crossing it will be required to have a passport? Maybe shutting it down altogether is the solution?

So much for the remnants of the "world's longest undefended border."

(This post is not a slam at Buffalo, in case any of the people who've previously accused me of such things happen to read this. I live in a city part of whose essential bridge collapsed in the 1989 earthquake. We won't see the re-engineered replacement finished until 2013, if the various authorities and contractors stay on schedule. Yes, I've had years when I crossed the still unreinforced structure everyday for work. I know all about interminable bureaucratic bridge projects!)

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