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FORT ERIE, Ont. – For the more than one million “trusted travelers” enjoying expedited Nexus passage between the U.S. and Canada, the trip just got even easier on one of the northern border’s busiest crossings.

Top Canadian officials presided at a ceremony Monday morning at a Peace Bridge location that now offers 24/7 access to “no muss, no fuss” clearance of customs. That means everyone enrolled in the special program can roll up to a gate at any time of the day, flash a Nexus card against a special monitor, answer a question or two via intercom to an officer inside and proceed into Canada.

“These borders have to work, and Nexus is a very important part of that,” said Member of Parliament Rob Nicholson of Niagara Falls, Ont., who is also Canada’s minister of defense.

He was joined by Steven Blaney of Quebec, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, who hailed any effort to make the U.S.-Canada border “more fluid.” He described a six-month pilot project now underway that will expand the current 7 a.m.-to-11 p.m. operations into an all-night program.

“Once the decision is made to allow entry or refer for further inspection, the gate is raised,” he explained. “Officers can then focus on unknown or potentially more dangerous travelers.”

The new initiative at this point applies only to Canada-bound vehicles, officials said.

Nexus, the program that allows pre-registered and pre-approved cross-border travelers special and expedited access in dedicated lanes, serves about 20 percent of all border travelers between Fort Erie and Buffalo, according to Peace Bridge Authority officials. That figure can approach 40 percent during peak commuting times.

“Nexus has proven to be needed for those trusted travelers who want to cross the border easily,” Blaney said. “I trust this will be another success, just as successful as pre-inspection just across the way.”

The minister was referring to another project also underway at Fort Erie that pre-clears some truckers for inspection in Buffalo.

Blaney and Nicholson also announced other new programs aimed at easing the Peace Bridge process for truckers. A new “Customs Self Assessment” program offers low-risk, pre-approved companies streamlined clearance of eligible goods when using authorized border services. And the Trusted Trader Portal allows companies to submit online applications for membership in the Partners in Protection program that allows existing members to maintain their special access.

“This is important for the economy of this area that the border be able to work as efficiently as possible,” Nicholson said. “I believe this is a perfect fit for us.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com