Americans eyeing ‘crossing fee’ for passenger vehicles at Canada-U.S. land borders

Border crossing
Would you still make your weekly or monthly shopping trip to the United States if you had to pay an additional fee each time you crossed a land border by car or bus?

It appears that such a 'crossing fee' could soon be a reality.

In the face of daunting budget cuts, that is one of the ideas up for consideration by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as explained in its fiscal 2014 budget proposal:

"SEC.544. (a) The Commissioner of the United States Customs and Border Protection shall:

"(1)conduct a study assessing the feasibility and cost relating to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee for both land border pedestrians and passenger vehicles along the northern and southwest borders of the United States; the study should include:

"(A)the feasibility of collecting from existing operators on the land border such as bridge commissions, toll operators, commercial passenger bus, and commercial passenger rail;

"(B)requirements to collect at land ports of entry where existing capability is not present; and

"(C)any legal and regulatory impediments to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee; and

"(2)complete the study within 9 months of enactment of this Act".

Canadians going to America by air or sea already pay such a fee: Each time this type of traveller enters the United States they pay a $5.50 'customs fee,' which is often hidden into the cost of airline tickets.

[ Related: Canadians will feel the pinch from U.S. spending cuts ]

Officials are quick to note that, at this point, Homeland Security is just studying the idea as a means to address a "staffing gap" at land borders. The actual logistics of it — where to charge and how to collect — might just become too much of a challenge to proceed.

The idea is also garnering opposition from some American politicians.

New York State Congressman Brian Higgins says the fee would hurt the U.S. economy.

"The economic integration of western New York and southern Ontario will define our region economically over the coming decades. Buffalo is able to maintain two major league sports teams because of the growing ticket-buying base of Greater Toronto. This is also the reason why we have low-cost air carriers, thriving shopping malls and stable cultural institutions," he wrote in a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security on Thursday.

[ Related: Cross-border policy that lets shoppers avoid duties and taxes frustrates Canadian retailers ]

"Given this, I was shocked to see that the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request proposed a study for a new toll on all passengers and pedestrians crossing the border from Canada into the United States. Putting up economic barriers to regional commerce is the absolute last thing we should be doing to grow the Western New York economy."

Canada-US cross border statistics:

- The 4,000 mile border between the United States and Canada has 128 ports of entry.

- According to Statistics Canada, same-day car trips by Canadians to the United States increased 0.7 per cent to 2.8 million trips in February 2013.

- According to Statistics Canada, one or more night car trips by Canadians to the United States rose to 1.2 million in February 2013.

- According to the Globe and Mail, a 2007 Bank of Montreal study suggests that Canadian retailers lose more than $20 billion a year because of Canadians shopping in the U.S.

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