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Friday, October 19, 2007 - Page updated at 07:40 AM

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Major construction at U.S.- Canada border crossing to bring more delays

Seattle Times travel staff

If you're driving home from a trip to British Columbia, be ready for even longer waits to re-enter the U.S. starting early next month because of major construction at the Peace Arch border crossing at Interstate-5.

The U.S. border station at the Peace Arch in Blaine is being rebuilt to provide greater traffic capacity and security, federal officials said today in announcing the start of construction.

Travelers will be affected starting Nov. 5 when roughly half of the inspection booths — those on the west side of the U.S. border station — will be closed. Southbound drivers returning to the U.S. from Canada will be funneled through four inspection booths on the east side of the border station (with only three of those for general traffic; the fourth is reserved for pre-screened travelers under the Nexus program). In mid-December, the east-side inspection booths will be closed and the west side reopened.

The construction could make the already bad border delays even worse. At peak times in recent months, southbound drivers heading into the U.S. sometimes have had to wait several hours even with most of the Peace Arch lanes open. The border crossings between Western Washington and B.C. have become busier in the summer and this fall as the strong Canadian dollar has made it much cheaper for British Columbians to shop and visit the U.S.

In January, construction will begin at the Peace Arch on a new bridge for northbound I-5 border lanes and a new U.S. border-station building. That will take about 18 months and bring continued delays and detours at the border.

The entire border project is due to be finished by January 2010, just weeks before the Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver, B.C. and Whistler on Feb. 12, 2010.

Travelers can get information on border traffic, including wait times and links to Web cams and other border information sites at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/border/

Delays going into Canada

While the Peace Arch construction will slow southbound traffic into the U.S., it isn't easy going for those heading into Canada. While wait times to enter Canada are generally far less, northbound drivers at the Peace Arch crossing (known formally as the Douglas border crossing in Canada) face some delays because of ongoing construction of new lanes and a building at the Canadian border station Wait times can be checked at http://cbsa.gc.ca/general/times/menu-e.html And don't expect the Pacific Highway border crossing, about a mile east of the Peace Arch crossing on State Highway 543, to be much better. Known as the truck crossing, since it handles commercial traffic as well as passenger vehicles, it has suffered extensive northbound delays in recent months because of major roadway reconstruction, including the addition of a new truck lane for commercial traffic. Get updates at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR543/I5_Canadian/

Drivers can head east to other border crossings at Lynden (Aldergrove on the B.C. side) and Sumas but both are small. The best way to beat the delays is to avoid peak times, especially Friday and Sunday afternoons when traffic is generally heaviest.

Kristin Jackson: kjackson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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