BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A $100 million construction project on the Peace Bridge will begin Tuesday, and officials are preparing for possible delays if the Canada Border Services Agency doesn't properly staff inspection lanes.
One of the three lanes of the bridge will be closed from November 15 to May 15.
"We're totally rehabilitating the bridge," said Ron Rienas, general manager of the Peace Bridge Authority. "It's going to be 90 years old next year. Much of it is still the original deck."
Rienas said the authority chose to do the work during the non-tourist season in order to minimize the impact. A private study showed a two-lane bridge could properly handle the expected traffic from November to May.
However, the big unknown is what will happen at the Canadian inspection plaza. Over the summer, wait times rose to as much as 3 hours for drivers trying to get into Canada, because some of the 15 inspection lanes in Fort Erie were closed.
Rienas said he has gotten assurances that U.S. Customs and Border Protection will properly staff the American side; he has not gotten such assurances from Canada.
"We really do require a stronger commitment from the Canadian government that the border is appropriately staffed for this period of time," Rienas said.
If booths on both sides are properly staffed, Rienas said the lane closure will have virtually no impact.
The first lane will be closed for repairs from November 2016 to May 2017. The second lane will be closed for the same time period 2017-2018. Construction on the final lane will wrap up in spring 2019. All lanes will be open in time for the summer periods.