Border Crossing Operators Fear U.S. Passport Requirement Economic Damage; Bridge & Tunnel Operators Association Expresses Range of Concerns

LEWISTON, N.Y., April 15 /PRNewswire/ — The Bridge & Tunnel Operators Association, composed of ten organizations responsible for the operation of eleven of the major crossings between the United States and Canada, today expressed their concern that the proposed requirement by the U.S. Department of State that all persons entering the U.S. carry passports, including American and Canadian citizens, would have an extensive and damaging impact upon border communities, the economies of 38 states, every province, and the ability of crossing operators to fund border infrastructure improvements. The new rule, scheduled for implementation on January 1, 2008 at the land border, would designate a passport and other, limited, forms of citizenship identification for all persons seeking to enter the U.S. At present, driver’s licenses and birth certificates are among the acceptable documents for identification.

“The Bridge & Tunnel Operators Association join with the State Department in encouraging Americans and Canadians to acquire passports, or enroll in the NEXUS or FAST programs as a more desirable means of identification. However, making passports mandatory will end almost all casual travel over the border and threaten the close personal ties that border communities have shared for 150 years,” noted BTOA President Thomas Garlock. Philip Becker, BTOA Vice- President, observed that “Many crossings serve one community that happens to be divided by a river. All organizations responsible for any facet of border operations are committed to security, but both countries are well advised to be cautious in regard to the law of unintended consequences. This will clearly have an impact on the economic life of border regions.”

A number of areas on the Canada – U.S. border have been tourist destinations for both countries for more than a century. Robert Horr, Executive Director of the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, said that “This requirement will end the spur-of-the-moment family vacation to our region and the Niagara region. With tourism a major job creator in these areas, economies will suffer.”

All crossing operators are concerned that their financial positions will be jeopardized by lower volumes, leading to a need to increase tolls or, for the first time, subsidies for their operations from taxpayer sources. This would come at a time when many of the crossings are engaged in capital projects intended to support border security and the facilitation of trade. The bonds issued for such projects are supported by toll revenues. Operators will ask that the Department of State identify alternative approaches to support the regulation’s goals and will work with the Department in that effort.

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