Funding for Seaway International Bridge included in COVID relief bill | Government

MASSENA — A $1.5 million appropriation for the Seaway International Bridge is included in the 591-page House Democratic COVID relief bill in response to the revenue reductions caused by the coronavirus.

The House was expected to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package Friday and send President Joseph R. Biden’s relief plan to the Senate.

Under the Transportation and Infrastructure portion of the package is funding for “Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation Operations and Maintenance.”

It reads, “In addition to amounts otherwise available, there is appropriated for Fiscal Year 2021, out of amounts not otherwise appropriated from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund pursuant to Section 210 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (33 U.S.C. 2238), $1,500,000, to remain available until expended, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus by conducting the operations, maintenance, and capital infrastructure activities of the Seaway International Bridge.”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and officials with the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said the coronavirus has significantly reduced revenue needed to support operations and maintenance on the bridge. The U.S. and Canadian federal governments share the ownership, management and operation of the Seaway International Bridge.

“This wholly federally owned bridge is a vital economic link between the North Country and Greater Montreal region and it (has) lost significant revenues due to the pandemic and cross border restrictions so it made sense that the prior administration requested funds to make up for the shortfall,” Sen. Schumer’s spokeswoman Allison Biasotti said in an email statement.

Officials with the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation said paid car and truck traffic decreased because of U.S.-Canada cross-border restrictions.

Due to COVID-19 and the associated ongoing U.S.-Canada cross-border restrictions, officials said paid car and truck traffic on the bridge has decreased by 80%, resulting in significant toll revenue reductions of nearly 70% since March of last year.

More than 2.5 million passenger vehicles and more than 70,000 commercial trucks travel the bridge each year, and the toll revenue from those bridge crossings are used to fund bridge operations and maintenance expenses, officials said in an email.

Canada secured $1.95 million in federal funds in July to support operations and maintenance of the bridge on behalf of Canada and the United States through March.

“The $1.5M emergency supplemental funding included in the draft American Rescue Plan would allow continued operations from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021, and would come from a Trust Fund that collects funds from shippers for maintenance of critical transportation infrastructure. If funding isn’t secured, there will very likely be an adverse impact to vehicular traffic — which includes essential workers and service operators — passenger vehicles, the trucking industry, and U.S-Canada commercial trade,” officials said.

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