U.S.-Canada bridge to get truck-only lanes

U.S.-Canada bridge to get truck-only lanes

OTTAWA - The fourth-busiest commercial crossing between the United States and Canada has become the first to lay out hard plans for long-promised express truck lanes.

The Queenston-Lewiston Bridge over the Niagara River between Ontario and New York will add a fifth lane in a C$45 ($32.5 million) project that will enable it to deploy up to four lanes at a time for traffic moving in any one direction. Construction is set to begin in 2005-06.

Plans also call for a two-kilometer (1.2 miles) express lane dedicated to pre-screened truck traffic on Highway 405, on the Canadian side leading to the bridge, at a cost of C$6 million. ($4.3 million), in 2004.

The Canadian and Ontario governments are providing C$15 million each for the bridge work and the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC) the rest. Canada and Ontario will pay for the highway express lane.

The NFBC also will rebuild the Canadian plaza on the 42-year-old bridge to make it more traffic-friendly, at a cost of C$60 million (C$42.3 million).

The NFBC outlined the plans, which start with design and engineering contracts that are expected to be fully completed within 24 to 36 months, at a media briefing Sept. 5.

Neither the U.S. federal or New York state governments have any financial involvement in the work.

The NFBC, a 65-year-old body set up by the U.S. Congress and by Ontario, operates three Niagara River bridges and provides the facilities for Customs and other government functions on both sides of the border. "The only reason we are doing it now is to move quickly," said Thomas E. Garlock, NFBC general manager. "We had the fifth lane in our capital budget, but for the 2012-14 period."

Both Washington and Ottawa have been promising dedicated truck lanes at crossings as an incentive for carriers and shippers to join supply chain security programs such as Canada's Free And Secure Trade and U.S. Customs' Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. But the trade has been reluctant to join the programs, saying faster Customs clearance means little if they have to battle traffic at border crossings.