Opinion

COLUMN: Border crossing expansion should help

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What began as a pleasant visit of reminiscence to a U.S. state park a little bit southeast of here turned into the road trip from hell, or with the infernal heat last Friday, as close as I want to come to it.

Heading south took some 10 minutes to clear U.S. Customs then 20 minutes to get to the park where we spent an hour or so wandering the grounds and lakeshore marveling at how much had changed since my fellow traveller had last been there some 50 years ago.

What has also changed dramatically since I last frequented Sumas are the traffic jams. I should point out that this was only my second visit to the Huntingdon/Sumas border crossing in 13 years. Up until Sept. 11, 2001, I often crossed the line southbound for a beer in Sumas or to shop in Lynden or Bellingham. Those days are long gone. The bars have shut down, and I already have more “stuff” than I need. The exchange rate of the Canadian dollar and heightened border security contributed to my decision to end my forays south.

Now I have an even stronger reason to maintain my infrequency of southern travel. Arriving back in Sumas, the traffic lineup was horrendous, with virtually no movement at all. We waited, along with hundreds of other vehicles, for more than an hour, and moved only a block and a half. Rather than burn gas, pollute the atmosphere and benefit from the air-conditioner we, like most other people, just sat with dead engines sweating out the heat.

Eventually, I got out of the car, walked almost to the border and noted innumerable examples of road rage as those waiting in line ranted and raged at drivers who were lane jumping after skirting through Sumas side streets right up to the border.

Back to the car, and thanks to my smartphone and access to the Internet, discovered the “wait time” was one hour and 40 minutes. Aldergrove, on the other hand, was reporting 25 minutes.

With an expletive that encapsulated my frustration with queue-jumpers, I managed to pull into a store parking lot, made my way back south to the highway and headed to Aldergrove.

During the 20-minute drive, the wait there had increased to 40 minutes, but at least the traffic was moving. When we finally made it to the crossing booth, among other things I mentioned the long wait at Sumas. The CBSA officer smiled and said “Nexus.”

All well and good to have the ability to use the fast-access lane, but if you can’t get to it due to traffic volume, it’s not very helpful.

What will soon be helpful is the major expansion of the Canadian border crossing in Aldergrove.

Similar action should occur at Sumas, but that can only happen if the crossing is moved a mile or two east to avoid the constricting confines of the little village’s narrow streets.

The waste of time, the great volume of fuel consumed by idling vehicles, the pollution created and the frustration caused by border lineup cheaters, combined with what is expected to be a large population increase on this side of the border in coming years demands that the crossing be vastly upgraded, and not just with an expanded Nexus lane.

While I’m no longer a fan of cross-border shopping, obviously from the traffic jam on a Friday mid-afternoon there is a vast number of Canadians who are shopping or travelling down south.

For example, this Monday at 11:30 a.m. the reader sign on the freeway just before the Sumas Way exit noted crossing times of 50 minutes at Sumas, 40 at Aldergrove, 60 at Pacific Highway and 70 at Blaine!

Doesn’t matter to me, however, because I won’t be crossing again for a long time, and only then either very early, or very late on a mid-week day.

markrushton@abbynews.com

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