U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to spend $46 million to upgrade technology to improve rail cargo inspections at 12 points of entry by the Canadian and Mexican borders.

CBP says it will replace aging rail scanner systems with new high-energy rail scanners that can generate high-quality images more quickly and securely. The scanners use linear accelerators to generate X-rays from electricity rather than radioactive isotopes, the agency said.

Installation and testing of the new scanners should begin this fall. 

Twelve locations, which process approximately 60% of the rail cargo imported into the U.S., will receive the new scanning equipment:

Blaine, Washington
Brownsville, Texas
Buffalo, New York
Calexico, California
Eagle Pass, Texas
Eastport, Idaho
El Paso, Texas (BNSF Railway)
El Paso (Union Pacific Railroad)
International Falls/Ranier, Minnesota
Nogales, Arizona
Portal, North Dakota
Rouses Point, New York

CBP says the new scanners will increase the efficiency of commercial rail inspections. The X-rays will occur only when trains are present, and CBP will install shield walls, fencing and signage at project sites in compliance with the safety and performance requirements specific to each location.

CBP processed approximately 3 million rail containers in 2020.

“Nonintrusive inspection technology is a force multiplier that allows CBP officers to safely and more efficiently process U.S.-bound cargo,” said William A. Ferrara, executive assistant commissioner of the CBP Office of Field Operations. “The high-quality images produced by the new rail cargo scanners will enhance CBP’s efforts to interdict stowaways, deadly narcotics and other contraband while facilitating the flow of lawful trade.”

CBP estimates that during its 6.4 million nonintrusive inspections at U.S. ports of entry in 2020, it intercepted 470,000 pounds, or 235 tons, of illicit narcotics and $11.54 million in undeclared currency. 

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