Nexus members making frequent crossings at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont., will get through faster, 24 hours a day, and at certain times, without seeing a guard in person.

Called Nexus eGate, the Peace Bridge is the first major port using the guard-less technology. Two smaller crossings in Quebec — Lacolle and St. Armand — are also using the new crossing technology, which uses video surveillance and an intercom, combined with a Nexus card, to control the border. 

There were no details on whether the government plans to further expand the program to other heavy-traffic crossings, such as at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ont.

Nexus is a bi-national program aimed at expediting border crossings for low-risk, frequent travellers between Canada and the United States. If a person meets the Nexus qualifications, a $50 fee gets them into the program for five years. The program recently reached more than one million member milestone.

Three changes to the program were announced Monday morning by the federal ministers of public safety and defence, all aimed at easing border crossings for what the ministers described as low-risk patrons and businesses.

The changes will give border guards more time to work on "unknowns," said Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steven Blaney. For Nexus users, Blaney said it will speed up their border crossing.

Other changes included updates to the Customs Self-Assessment (CSA) program, and the launch of on online portal to help businesses maintain their "trusted trader" status.

The updated CSA was previously only available to Canadian companies, or corporations with a head office in Canada. Businesses voluntarily submit information on their internal controls and systems in exchange for faster processing times at the border. Blaney announced the program is now available on both sides of the border. 

The online portal allows business to apply and maintain their trusted trader status through the partners in protection program — another initiative aimed at expediting border crossing times for low-risk, pre-approved cargo.

Previously, Nexus users at the Peace Bridge crossing could access one of two lanes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The changes announced Monday open the lane 24 hours a day to Nexus users, however border guards will not physically be at the Nexus lane, Blaney said. A "remote" guard from the main office will screen border crossings.

In a statement provided after the announcement, Sam Hoyt, chairman of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, said, "There is no doubt that Nexus improves the flow of legitimate travel and trade across the shared Canada-U.S. border. As one of the busiest land border crossings, we are happy to be holding this pilot project at Peace Bridge which provides Nexus members with 24/7 access to a dedicated lane.”