WASHINGTON – Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Wednesday won a commitment from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to try to ease the crush of traffic at the Peace Bridge on days when the Buffalo Bills play home games.
Grilling Johnson at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Schumer asked him to boost customs staffing at the bridge on game days, to make it easier for Bills fans to sign up for Nexus cards – which would ease their passage across the border – and to meet with the new Bills owner once the team is sold.
Johnson didn’t offer specific commitments on additional staffing or the Nexus card proposal, but he did say: “I appreciate the importance of expediting travel across the few bridges we have across the northern border. I want to help out the situation there, whether it’s meeting the Bills owner or not. I’d be happy to meet the Bills owner at some point but I want to work with you on this.”
In an interview, Schumer, D-N.Y., said he asked Johnson about the border-crossing issue in order to make it easier for the Bills’ Canadian fans to attend games.
“I think it’s important because it will strengthen the Bills,” Schumer said.
Schumer suggested that the federal government set up “premium staffing” at the Peace Bridge three hours before Bills games to ease the flow of traffic. In addition, he said the government should make Nexus cards available at Ralph Wilson Stadium – and interview potential card holders there – so that they can have the cards in hand at future home games.
The senator also told Johnson: “We’re looking for a new owner for the Bills. We are all working very hard – myself, the congressional delegation, the governor, the county executive, the mayor – to make sure the Bills stay in Buffalo. And so we’re going to have a new owner, and one of the things that would be helpful is if you would agree to meet with the next owner to develop a comprehensive plan over the speed of traffic over the border on game day.”
Johnson, a native of New York City, responded to Schumer’s inquiries by saying: “My answer concerning getting Bills fans to Bills games depends entirely on who they are playing. Just kidding.”
To which Schumer said, sardonically, of the Bills: “They don’t win that much. We wish they won more.”