Customs eyeing Ambassador Bridge for expansion (continued)

Mayor Eddie Francis suggested earlier this month the bridge company is preparing to expand the bridge plaza for commercial use and not as a green corridor.

There is concern the bridge is working with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to use the site for secondary truck inspections.

In fact, Danny Yen, CBSA spokesman in Windsor, said that while there are no plans “currently” to move from the present offsite Customs’ facility on Industrial Dr. it has long been a CBSA “objective” to “repatriate” the site to the bridge proper.

At present, trucks that require further inspection after going through the primary booth are searched at the off-site.

But Yen said the need for the offsite has been dramatically reduced in recent years because of new clearance procedures, such as line release, where truck cargo manifests are sent electronically in advance.

This allows Customs to review them and when trucks arrive they “can be released right from the primary line” without further inspection.

Very few trucks need to go to the off site, Yen said, and those that do require CBSA escorts which are costly and an inefficient use of resources.

Escorts are required to ensure drivers don’t make stops or divert from route.

It’s the same principle as when motorists are told to go to secondary and the Customs officer keeps an eye on them until they arrive at secondary on the same plaza.

The distance between the bridge and the offsite is three kilometres. The CBSA does not own the site.

“Needless to say it’s not an efficient way of doing business,” Yen said. “It’s an objective and goal of ours to bring that back to the bridge proper.”

Asked if his agency is actively negotiating with the bridge Yen said the CBSA is “always engaged in ongoing discussions with the Ambassador Bridge (about) our facilities.”

But, he said, it doesn’t “publically discuss” the nature of those talks.

In 2008 the CBSA repatriated its offsite for the Windsor Detroit tunnel from Hanna St. to the tunnel itself “and for the same reason,” he said.

The city has implemented a development freeze – which prohibits the tearing down of those houses – and has asked the bridge company to meet about its plans.

Property owners say the company has told them it plans to tear the buildings down for a “green corridor.”

A group called the Boarded Up Houses Demolition Action Group, including owners and tenants of the nearby properties, wants the city to allow the company to go ahead because it says the properties are unsightly.

It has threatened legal action, claiming the city doesn’t have the right to control development.


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