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Governor Gregoire Signs Legislation to Keep Washington/B.C. Border Crossing Moving

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2007

Enhanced driver license is a passport alternative

OLYMPIA - Governor Chris Gregoire today signed into law a measure she requested for enhanced driver licenses that will keep British Columbia border crossings secure, fast and convenient for Washington citizens.

“Washington and B.C. have a long history of friendship and our shared border must permit the trade and tourism that supports our shared economy,” said Governor Gregoire. “We looked at the restrictions of the federal passport requirements and we came up with a solution that is secure, more affordable and allows more trade and tourism.”

The legislation authorizes enhanced driver licenses, issued on proof of citizenship, identity and residency, which can be used instead of a passport by citizens crossing the border between Washington and British Columbia. The new licenses will cost $40, a more affordable price than the $97 cost for a passport, and will be available faster than the six to eight week wait for a passport.

The enhanced driver licenses are part of a pilot project developed by Governor Gregoire and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell. The pilot project is in response to the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative that, after June 1, 2009, will require a federally issued passport or passport card document to cross the border. The new licenses offer citizens a more affordable and more convenient alternative to a passport and the pilot project will test the use of the enhanced licenses for border crossings.

Safe and convenient border crossings between Washington and British Columbia will become even more important when B.C. hosts the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, bringing unprecedented numbers of tourists to the region.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will meet with Governor Gregoire today to authorize the pilot project. Washington is leading the nation as the only state that has developed a viable alternative to passports and other states that share borders and close ties to Canada will be watching closely.

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1289, sponsored by Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island), passed the House with 94 votes and passed the Senate with 43 votes. The bill becomes effective immediately.