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Longer border delays

Surrey residents heading south should expect even more delays crossing the Canada-U.S. border in the coming weeks, thanks to construction aimed at eventually easing the line-up pain.

“Be prepared and be patient,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Mike Milne said. “Peace Arch will have some restrictions. We’re telling people (to) use the other ports of entry.”

As of Monday, four of eight southbound inspection booths at the Peace Arch border are now closed for six to eight weeks while crews do work on utilities for planned new facilities. Travellers will be redirected through four east-side lanes.

Another four booths will close for an estimated 14 to 16 months, starting in August, to accommodate rebuilding of the I-5 north, and construction of a new bridge and highway section.

“There will be a detour which will take out four booths,” said the General Service Administration’s Bill Lesh.

Lesh said the upgrades will improve the security and safety of both travellers and border personnel. It is anticipated to be complete in time for the 2010 Olympics.

One bright light at the end of the tunnel is the project will add two inspection booths to the port for a total of 10 southbound lanes.

Lesh noted the work will also result in a new administration building and a significantly larger secondary inspection area.

Milne said it would be unrealistic to expect such a project to come without any impact.

“You can’t build a new facility in the middle of an interstate freeway system... and not create an impact,” he said.

Patience is key, he said.

“It’s kind of one of those, you keep your eyes on the prize. It’s like having your kitchen remodeled: you just deal with it and in the end, you’ve got a much better deal.”

Milne advised those thinking of heading south to plan ahead, avoid travelling during peak times and ensure they are carrying all the necessary travel documents. He suggested people consider other means of transportation.

He noted CBP is looking at a variety of ways of mitigating problems during the closures, including the use of temporary booths.

tholmes@peacearchnews.com

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