LEWISTON, N.Y. -- The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge has one of the highest volumes of commercial traffic on the Northern Border. In some cases, that means hours before getting to the other side.
"The wait times here are renowned for being long wait times and when you have trucks sitting at the border anytime that you're sitting there, time is money. Time is money in freight," said Craig Turner of the Buffalo Niagara International Trade Gateway Organization.
Thanks to a push by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, the bridge is one step closer to becoming swifter. A federal agency approved a critical designation that brings a $64 million expansion project one step closer to reality. It's specifically for the U.S. plaza at the Lewiston-Queenston bridge, and officials say it's needed to improve the regional economy.
"We're attracting manufacturing here, we're attracting companies like Solar City here. Well how's Solar City going to move their product. If they're importing from Canada how's it going to get across the border what's the reliability of our bridges here," said Turner.
Officials said current plaza facilities at the bridge are outdated and can't efficiently support the more than 3 million vehicles that cross it on a yearly basis.
"The truck drivers have a limited amount of time that they can drive on their runs and the amount of time that they're spending sitting at the border here with one hour, two hours, three hours eats into that time. Whatever we can do at this bridge to get these trucks over faster is going to make our region more attractive for business," said Turner.
The improvements call for five additional inspection lanes, replacing six of the existing passenger lanes, hi-low lanes and a commercial inspection lane, as well as adding another bus processing lane, expanding parking, and expanding the outdoor canopy of the plaza.
The designation approval means the U.S. Customs and Border Protection can now enter into a lease with the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission to start securing funding for the improvements. No word on when renovations would begin.