Cablegate: Border Infrastructure: Badly Needed New England-Atlantic

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. As debates about new border infrastructure continue, a
coalition of local, state, provincial and federal officials in
the U.S. and Canada have been quietly pushing for a new crossing
to replace the inadequate two-lane bridge between Calais, ME and
St. Stephen, NB. The eighth-busiest border crossing is the
gateway for the vast majority of trade between the U.S. and
Atlantic Canada. Much of it is live (shellfish) or very fresh
(seafood, Christmas trees) and border delays can severely reduce
a cargo's value.

2. Plans are moving forward to build a new bridge and
inspection area to supplement the existing outdated and
inadequate infrastructure. Maine Transportation Commissioner
David Cole and his staff told Ambassador and CG about the
27-year history of the project, noting that consensus has
emerged in recent years on both the U.S. and Canadian sides that
a new bridge is vital if trade is to continue to grow. The
government of Maine sees a new bridge as a key component of the
state's economic development, as does the province of New
Brunswick. At the local level there is agreement on the need
for the new crossing as well as its site, with few if any
objections raised to the project. Most local residents, in
fact, would welcome the diversion of much of the traffic that
now winds through and snarls downtown streets on both sides of
the border.

3. DHS Assistant Port Director Tim Dannell stressed to us the
importance to U.S. security of replacing the existing inadequate
inspection facilities. The existing Canadian inspection area
is marginally better than on the U.S. side, where DHS officers
work out of a 70-year old building. A new crossing will have
much more space for inspections and will allow deployment of
state of the art technologies to detect suspicious shipments.
Additional bridge lanes will allow for the possibility of
introducing FAST/NEXUS to further speed legitimate travel and

4. Funding remains the final major hurdle for the project. On
the Canadian side both the provincial and federal governments
indicate that money will be available when the project has all
necessary approvals. Maine officials tell us that they are
pleased with the progress being made toward the Presidential
Permit required for the new border crossing and are cautiously
optimistic that the Congress will approve the money necessary to
get the much needed new bridge underway soon.


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