Senate OKs Peters’ measure on customs plazas fund

Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The U.S. Senate late Thursday approved a budget amendment by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, that creates a reserve fund for future spending authorization at customs plazas and ports of entry.

The measure is non-binding and does not represent an approval for funding. The amendment did not specify a dollar amount for the fund. Money would likely be included in appropriations for U.S. Customs & Border Patrol or the General Services Administration.

It creates a reserve fund in the federal budget that won’t increase the federal deficit. The fund may be used for construction or increased staffing at ports of entry, such as the new U.S.-Canada crossing planned between Detroit and Windsor and the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, which is awaiting a $160 million customs plaza expansion.

Estimates peg the cost of the New International Trade Center at $100 million for the first year and $50 million a year for subsequent years and the Blue Water modernization at $165 million.

Peters’ measure won the support of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and cosponsored the amendment.

Peters spoke on the floor of the chamber Thursday, highlighting Canada’s importance as a trade partner with the United States.

“Existing infrastructure at our ports of entry often do not allow for the most efficient processing of trucks and cargo,” he said.

“We have two major crossings — in Detroit with Windsor, Canada, as well as Port Huron with Sarnia. Both those trade areas need additional investment in their customs plazas to efficiently handle the trade between our two countries.”