Press-Republican

March 28, 2013

Lacolle border-improvement project funded

DAN HEATH
Press-Republican

CHAMPLAIN — The Canadian government plans to invest $47 million in improvements to the St-Bernard-de-Lacolle border crossing on Interstate 87.

The project, said Canadian Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Denis Lebel in a press release on the Transport Canada website, “will have a significant impact for Quebec and will facilitate the safe, secure and efficient movement of people and trade between Canada and the United States. 

“With the new Building Canada Plan, our government is delivering the largest investment in infrastructure in Canadian history through Economic Action Plan 2013, investments that create jobs and economic growth and provide a high quality of life for families in every city and community across the country.”

TECHNOLOGY UPGRADE

The Champlain-Lacolle Port of Entry saw more than $21 billion in two-way trade in 2012. In addition, more than 780,000 cars and buses entered Canada through the port last year.

“The redevelopment project at Lacolle provides an opportunity to expedite the flow of traffic through the border by expanding and modernizing the current infrastructure,” Lebel said.

“This announcement follows through on commitments in the Beyond the Border Action Plan announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama in December 2011.”

The redeveloped port would have 15 traveler lanes, including two NEXUS lanes, up from nine lanes with one NEXUS lane at present. It also includes modernization of the bus-processing facilities and an upgrade of technology used at the port.

The project is expected to start this year and take three years to complete.

It comes after the governments of Canada and Quebec invested more than $86 million on improvements to Highway 15 leading to the border and a new commercial-vehicle safety inspection station in 2006. 

The United States has spent more than $100 million on improvements to its side of the border.

KEY CROSSING

Champlain-Lacolle was one of the key border crossings identified in the Beyond the Border Action Plan. That plan focused on early threat detection, trade facilitation, economic growth, job creation, integrated cross-border law enforcement and stronger infrastructure and cyber security.

North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas said the announcement marks the next phase in the original Port of Excellence vision established more than a decade ago. The chamber is one of the co-leaders of the Quebec-New York Corridor Coalition and spearheaded efforts to improve the Interstate 87 border crossing.

“Since the completion of the remarkable new U.S. facilities at Champlain several years ago, we have been joined with the Quebec government, the federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec, the Montreal Board of Trade and others, including Congressman (Bill) Owens and Senators (Charles) Schumer and (Kirsten) Gillibrand, in seeking a major Canadian investment at Lacolle. 

“We now have that commitment,” he said.

‘TWO-WAY FLUIDITY’

Owens (D-Plattsburgh), who is co-chair of the House of Representatives Northern Border Caucus, welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.

“Funding to improve the Champlain-Lacolle Border Crossing is another positive step in the effort to bolster U.S.-Canadian trade through the Beyond the Border agreement, and I applaud this announcement,” he said by email. 

“Continued efforts to increase efficiency and improve the flow of people and goods at the border offer opportunities for job growth and economic development in New York.”

Douglas said continued economic growth of the region depends on two-way border fluidity.

“That makes this announcement important not only to travelers and shippers but to our dozens of Canadian companies located here, our economic developers working to facilitate further Canadian investment in the North Country, our tourism and retail businesses who need the best possible border experience for Canadian visitors, our airport, which can only grow with more Quebec passengers coming here in the future, and so much more.”

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com