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Aldergrove Border Crossing An Open And Shut – And Open Again – Case

ALDERGROVE, B. C. - First they were going to close it down to trucks, then it got a reprieve - and the B. C. Trucking Association says it had a lot to do with the second chance the Aldergrove border c...

ALDERGROVE, B. C. –First they were going to close it down to trucks, then it got a reprieve – and the B. C. Trucking Association says it had a lot to do with the second chance the Aldergrove border crossing has received.

And while it’s happy with the way the issue is unfolding now, the BCTA was a tad nonplussed at the way it was handled right off the bat.

“This was a slightly odd situation,” says Louise Yako, vice-president of the BCTA. “Normally, with the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) and any government department, there’s usually a formal consultation process. In this case, however, we heard several times through the grapevine that officials were thinking about closing Aldergrove (to trucks) but when we asked them -expecting the usual consultation process – they’d say nothing had been decided.”

Then the news hit that the crossing would, in fact, close to commercial traffic, leaving the other already-strained crossings to take up the slack. That sent the BCTA into action.

“We requested a direct meeting with the CBSA, and presented information on the impact the closure would have,” the association said. They offered economic data on the impact the closure would have on trucking companies themselves, as well as demographic studies on projected population and business growth in the Fraser Valley. And they showed that closing Aldergrove would throw a monkey wrench into future development.

“You can’t build any more in Vancouver, Burnaby and those communities because they’re running out of space and the only area of growth left is in the Fraser Valley,” Yako says, pointing out that this view is backed up by surveys and other info from the business community on both sides of the border. Rather than closing the facility down, then, “We’d like to see the more important border services moving eastward,” to facilitate this growth.

Yako says the CBSA responded quickly and that “Given the information we’d provided, they changed their minds.”

Keeping the current facility open is only a temporary move, however, until a new facility can be developed. Yako says the CBSA is developing a plan to handle the transition, which they’ve promised to share with the BCTA, a process she says should happen relatively quickly – “Probably within weeks.”

“We’ll be reacting to what they draft,” Yako says, noting the CBSA didn’t ask the BCTA for any recommendations, just for a response to what they come up with in the transitional plan. But she knows what the BCTA would like to see.

“We’d like eventually to see full commercial services at the crossing, which involves having to coordinate with Infrastructure Development so access is improved to and from the facility.”

Currently, access is via Highway 13, which will need to be upgraded substantially between the border and the Trans-Canada highway.

“It’ll need to be twinned at some point,” Yako says. The BCTA also wants to see the capability for brokers to have space as well. Currently there are none, “So we’ll need that.”

Keeping -and expanding -the Aldergrove crossing does appear to make economic and demographic sense. As of 2007, it hosted 17% of B. C.’s approximately 1.2 million northbound and southbound trucks, making it the 12th largest commercial crossing in the country, according to the BCTA.

And there’s reason beyond the easterly migration of people and businesses to think that Aldergrove might only become more important in the future: until 2006, it was the only crossing in the province to post a steady increase in northbound volume. Analysis shows that truck volume increased an average of 11% per year between 1995 and its peak in 2006, whereas the average volume at Pacific Highway peaked in 2000 and has gone down by 2% per year since then, while Huntingdon’s northbound traffic has dropped 10% per year since a 2002 peak.

Not only that, but despite the decline in actual traffic since 2006, the overall value of goods entering Canada has gone up from $157 million in 2006 to $231 million in 2008.

According to statistics published by Washington State’s Whatcom County Council of Governments, southbound truck traffic showed a slight rise between 2006 and 2008 (from 55,853 to 56,855), the only one of the three crossings not to show a decline in southbound volume during that period.

Time will tell what proposals the CBSA will come up with, but it appears clear that there are compelling reasons not only for keeping Aldergrove open but for upgrading the facilities to take into account changing realities. Yako says the BCTA will work with the business community and other interested organizations on both sides of the border, including the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council and the International Trade and Mobility Corridor, to make sure the governments involved are aware of how important it is to the trucking industry for the facility and the highway that connects it to be capable of handling Aldergrove’s projected growth.

“This is really where strength in numbers makes a difference,” Yako says. “And we’d certainly welcome more support from the industry.”

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