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-- Checking travelers between the United States and Canada
after they've crossed the border -- which some liken to checking airline
passengers after they land -- is being scrutinized by officials
concerned that bridges
and tunnels could be vulnerable to attack.
Lawmakers are pressuring the U.S. Customs Service and Canadian
officials to come up with a decision this week on whether the countries
can swap inspection locations.
An alternative to paying a toll, crossing the bridge or tunnel, and
then being scrutinized by Customs officials once inside the other
country's territory is to do inspections before crossing.
Although the reverse
inspection system is the only solution being
lobbied to enhance infrastructure safety, the two nations haven't agreed
on how to settle legal obstacles. An old idea revived by the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks, a revised system
would involve numerous agencies in
both countries in the decision.
"This reverse clearance proposal has a number of sovereignty and
structure issues attached to it," said Michel Proulx, spokesman for the
and Revenue Agency in Ottawa.
"There are a lot of players involved in all of this. It's difficult
to get a sound, concrete answer. No one department or agency would be
able to say yes or no."
There's little to stop
someone who wanted to damage the Ambassador
Bridge, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, or even Detroit Metropolitan Airport, if
the crime is done before the perpetrator even gets to an inspection
point, critics say.
Besides the human safety concern, destroying any one of the
border-crossing points would do serious harm to the auto industry, one
of the United States' economic engines, and many other businesses that
rely on just-in-time
delivery of material. Michigan had $70 billion in
trade with Canada in 2000.
"Every time I drive through that tunnel, I expect something to
happen," said Jerome Almon, a Detroiter who drives to
and from Toronto
at least twice a month.
"Osama bin Laden says the economy is what they want to attack, and
you cannot find a more decimating effect than that bridge or tunnel on
our economy. You will kill Detroit, it's over, goodbye. But think of the
effect on the rest of America."
Firearms an issue
Aside from jurisdiction, the question of whether U.S. Customs
should carry firearms in Canada is of particular concern to Canadians.
Canada is known for being much less tolerant of guns than the United
"Our Customs officers are not armed and at this point in
still feel there is no reason for them to be," Proulx said.
"We have a study going on right now to determine whether the tools
they have are adequate to do their jobs safely and with full security.
(agents) are (armed) and definitely that would be one of the
snags in the issue."
The preclearance concept does have precedent. U.S. Customs agents
inspect U.S.-bound passengers at six Canadian airports so they don't
have to be routed through Customs once they arrive like travelers on
flights from every other country, said former Michigan Gov. James
He spearheaded the "open skies" agreement when he was U.S. ambassador
The real stumbling block to doing this at bridges and tunnels will be
working out how much authority each side is given to enforce the other
country's laws, he said.
"You could always prevent
(a suspicious passenger) from getting on
the plane," Blanchard said. "The question is who arrests them, can they
say 'I choose not to fly' then go home, or do we hold them?"
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, said he thinks all of
the issues can be
"The only impediment here is bureaucratic impediment," he said. "Even
though there's supposed to be an urgency after Sept. 11, there seems to
be some unnecessary foot-dragging."
Levin and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, sent a letter to Customs
Commissioner Robert Bonner on Jan. 4, insisting on a progress report by
"It is obvious that inspecting vehicles for dangerous contents such
as bombs or explosives after they enter our tunnels or cross our bridges
is inadequate," they wrote.
Customs spokesman Jim Michie said he wasn't sure when a decision
would be made on reverse inspections, but
that it was being closely
Tighter local security
Local authorities say they've taken the steps they can to bolster
Travelers who use the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel are no
through unless operators are certain they can make to the other side
without backups, said Gordon Jarvis, president of the Detroit & Canada
"If there is an incident
and you need to get out, there is space for
you to do so, and there are fewer cars in the tunnel at any one time,"
Jarvis said. "It also makes it much easier for us to identify when there
are incidents in the tunnel."
Jarvis said reverse inspections are a viable option at the tunnel,
despite the smaller queue area, compared to other crossing points like
the Ambassador Bridge.
The owners of the Ambassador Bridge have installed new
fencing and surveillance cameras, as well as armed security 24 hours a
day, said Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co.
Stamper said the bridge company is paying for the extra security.
"We're not sure whose responsibility it is for the cost of security,
but we are not in the position to say it's not going to be done," he
The bridge authority has completed plans showing that logistically,
preclearance can be implemented on an interim basis within 90 days,
Stamper said. In doing so, there would be the added bonus of huge
efficiencies in traffic flow.
"The current six lanes that cross the border, two
at the tunnel and
four at the bridge, become traffic lanes and not parking lots," Stamper
said. "It increases the capacity of both the tunnel and the bridge, a
lot more than anything else we can do today."
Blue Water Bridge study
Bruce Campbell, the engineer manager of the Blue Water Bridge, said
the proposal is being examined as part of a long-term security review of
the span connecting Port Huron with Sarnia, Ontario.
With the Ambassador Bridge being the busiest U.S.-Canada entry point,
carrying 12 million vehicles a year, the economic implications for the
region are enormous.
"One 18-wheeler goes across that bridge every eight seconds,"
Carmine Palombo, director of transportation planning at the Southeast
Michigan Council of Governments.
The implications for the bridge and tunnel operators are significant
all looking at an out-of-pocket expense they hadn't
anticipated," said Neil Gray, director of government affairs at the
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, which represents
"Nobody wants to do a toll increase to reflect this, in fact I'm not
sure anyone has proposed one, but it's an issue we are all having to
Protecting airports is a concern as well, though most of the
attention has been on protecting aircraft against air piracy, Capt.
Duane E. Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, told
senators late last year.
Noting that airports in Rome and Vienna have been hit, Woerth
he's worried terrorists could attack ticket counters, check-in
facilities and lines of passengers waiting outside.
Airlines, bridges and tunnels are experiencing lower traffic flow
because of leisure
travelers concerned about terrorist risks.
Almon, the Detroiter who travels to Toronto on business, said he's a
former combat engineer with the Army and he's concerned about how easily
carload of explosives put together with store-bought material could
take out the bridge or tunnel.
"At the mouth of the Detroit tunnel sits General Motors headquarters,
a terrorist would get two for one with that," Almon said.
IT IS COMPLETELY UNPROTECTED AND THE ABYSMAL SECURITY AT THE SITE HAS GOTTEN FAR WORSE SINCE
IT WILL MAKE THE FLINT WATER DISASTER LOOK LIKE SPILLING A CUP OF WATER...AND FLINT PROVES THAT MICHIGAN IS IN NO WAY
CAPABLE OF HANDLING THE IMMINENT CATASTROPHE