BLAINE, Wash. — British Columbians travelling to the US via the Peace Arch border crossing at Blaine, Wash., are expected to suffer from higher-than -average delays, now that US Customs and Border Protection has closed half of its eight inspection booths for a sizeable construction project.
Monday’s Canadian long weekend line-up was manageable, according to Tom Schreiber, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, who spoke to CBC news service. Only the four booths on the east side of the crossing, one of which is a NEXUS lane, will be used during the next six to eight weeks, according to Schreiber. Then, the four closed booths on the west side will re-open and crews will work on the ones on the east side. The staggered closing of the inspection booths is part of a project to construct new booths and a bridge to Interstate 5.
“What we will be asking people to do is plan their trips ahead of time (and) think about using alternative ports of entry,” said Schreiber, who advised B.C. travellers to be patient and to cross the border during off-peak hours.
Travellers are also being advised to use three other border crossings: via Hwy. 11 in Huntington, B.C.; Hwy. 13 in Aldergrove, B.C.; and Hwy. 15 at the Pacific Highway crossing.
The B.C. Trucking Association (BCTA) expects the construction at Peace Arch will “probably” affect Canadian transport, despite nearby truck inspection booths at the Pacific Hwy. border crossing, which also has regular vehicle inspection booths. “We just don’t know what the magnitude of that will be,” vice-president of the BCTA, Louis Yako, told Trucknews.com.
Much of the major work which began last fall will be completed by the fall of 2010, according to the US General Services Administration (GSA), which is responsible for the project. Many key components will be completed and operational for the Olympics. GSA has committed to having 10 primary inspection booths available during the Olympics. The 10 booths will be a combination of permanent and temporary booths. In addition, the bridge/highway construction of northbound Interstate 5 will be complete. A new, larger secondary inspection area will also be in place for the Olympics.
The Blaine crossings between Washington and British Columbia has the third-highest volume of passenger traffic and the fourth-highest volume of commercial trucks along the entire US-Canadian border, according to the Washington Department of Transportation, which calculates that commercial traffic has increased 85% over the past 10 years.
While commercial traffic is also prohibited at the Peace Arch crossing on the US side, about 2,000 trucks use the Pacific Highway crossing, according to information from US customs and Statistics Canada.