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U.S. and Canada move toward improved border infrastructure

by Candice Miller on December 8, 2011

By Todd Spangler
Detroit Free Press
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011112080544
WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Canada took another step Wednesday toward improving the flow of trade and people across the border in Detroit and elsewhere on the two countries’ border, unveiling plans to work toward coordinating regulations and security measures.
 
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met in Washington, releasing plans that built on their announcement earlier this year that the nations would work on improving border infrastructure, reducing regulatory hurdles to trade and addressing security threats in either country through a coordinated set of standards.
 
The plans released Wednesday lay out a path toward reaching common standards.
 
Harper called the agreements “the most significant step forward in Canada-U.S. cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement,” and they could have an effect in metro Detroit, though there was no specific mention of a second Detroit River bridge — a priority of the Canadians.
 
Improving infrastructure on the border was talked about, however. By the end of March, Sarnia and Windsor will expand the number of lanes available to people signed up in the NEXUS program that expedites border clearance for low-risk, pre-approved travelers.
 
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the NEXUS expansion in Windsor would take place at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel or at the Ambassador Bridge.
 
The reports also call on officials to “coordinate border infrastructure investment and upgraded physical infrastructure at key border crossings,” though the busiest trade crossing — at the Ambassador Bridge — was not included as among the initial priorities for targeted projects.
 
Several others, including the Blue Water Bridge at Port Huron-Sarnia and the Peace Bridge at Buffalo, were listed.
 
“Today’s announcement … is the best news we have had for the Blue Water Bridge during my time in Congress,” said U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a five-term Harrison Township Republican whose district includes Port Huron.
 
Going forward, there could be help for the auto industry, too. One of the plans calls for coordinating regulations for auto standards between the countries.
 
The report said that although standards are “generally aligned” between the countries, there are differences that can result in duplicative testing and increased costs for building prototypes.
 
Officials will work toward coordinating safety standards, including side-impact and ejection-mitigation standards, and try to set a standard government agenda for all new motor vehicle safety standards.

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