Full steam ahead for new port facility

Published on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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Travelers crossing the U.S.-Canadian border during the 2010 Winter Olympics can expect traffic flows comparable to an average summer day. That was the message from General Service Administration (GSA) officials during a press conference at the Peace Arch border crossing earlier this month.

“We are counting on a busy summer day,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson Michele James. “Those are the projections we’ve been given time and again.”

James said the number of people crossing the border could be as many as 12,000 per day but when asked by Canadian reporters what the estimated wait time would be, James said it partially depends on travelers’ preparedness at the border and whether they utilize other border crossings.

“I can’t guarantee there will be no wait time but if we keep the booths manned during peak times we should be able to minimize those wait times,” she said. “Having documents ready and knowing what to declare will help as well.”

Regional commissioner Robin Graf said during the meeting that the border crossing facility would have a total of 10 inspection lanes – two more than their usual – during the Olympic Games from February 12 to 28 and during the Paralympic Games in March.

In addition, traffic lanes will be reconfigured to accommodate more volume and border crossings in Lynden and Sumas will be adding one additional lane.

The Pacific Highway truck crossing will also convert one truck lane to accommodate passenger vehicle traffic, James said.

Border agencies had originally planned on constructing a new $70 million border inspection facility at the Peace Arch crossing before the games but the completion date has now been set back until December 2010. Construction will be postponed during the Olympics.

After the Olympics, CBP will move their operations into the new building and demolition will begin on the old facility.

The Peace Arch port of entry project replaces the current facility, which was built n 1976 and is functionally obsolete.

The new building is approximately 30,000-square feet and will strive for LEED certification, a verification program developed by the U.S. Green  Building Council to certify green building practices. The new facility will also feature a pedestrian lane, something the older facility lacked.

The project is expected to be completed by December, 2010.