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Passing through

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Motorists who use the U.S./Canadian border crossing on Wellesley Island should experience some relief from chronic backups in the near future if a provision in President Barack Obama’s budget is passed.

Mr. Obama submitted his $3.9 trillion budget to Congress on Tuesday for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. It contains $105 million for the long-awaited project to upgrade the border crossing near Alexandria Bay.

“The money would cover the first phase of work, including renovations to commercial and passenger vehicle inspection lanes, a commercial inspection warehouse, an impound lot and a new veterinary services building,” according to a Wednesday story in the Watertown Daily Times. “Two parcels of land also will be purchased.” Hundreds of thousands of vehicles carrying 1.5 million passengers pass through the border checkpoint every year. This project has been in the planning stages for about 12 years.

“This project is important both for enhancing security at our nation’s borders and for supporting the New York/Canada commercial corridors,” Denise L. Pease, regional administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration, said in the story.

This money is in the budget — for the time being. Getting it passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate is another matter.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S. Rep. William L. Owens, D-21st District, of Plattsburgh, who have lobbied to include the project in the president’s budget, can now direct their efforts to ensuring Congress approves it. After all, this facility is not a bridge to nowhere.

And this money is just for the first phase of the necessary work. A second phase would include “a new outbound inspection facility, noncommercial secondary inspection plaza and non-intrusive inspection building, along with renovations to the main administration building,” costing another $100.5 million, the story reported.

Let’s hope we don’t see a repeat of last year’s budget hang-up, which led to a partial shutdown of the federal government. However legislators want to carve up the budget, these funds need to be in it.

In the 2015 Department of Defense budget, also made public Tuesday, the U.S. Army set aside $27 million for a hangar to house a fleet of MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum. Between eight and 10 Gray Eagles along with about 128 employees are scheduled to be in place by about July. In this time of financial austerity, it’s nice to see some money being allocated for worthwhile projects.

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