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Jun 242017
 

The success of the U.S. and Canadian NEXUS program has resulted in growing border delays for cardholders.   At peak periods, ports with a high percentage of NEXUS users are starting to reach capacity in the dedicated NEXUS lanes.  As a result, there are certain times of the day when the regular lanes may be faster than the Nexus lanes.  Border officials are also beginning to see NEXUS users making dangerous maneuvers to switch out of the NEXUS lanes and into the regular lane queue.

The problem stems from the fact that the number of NEXUS card holders continues to rise while the number of dedicated NEXUS lanes does not.  The program now has over 1 million members and both countries are working hard to increase that number significantly.  With limited space and construction funding, many ports cannot simply add new NEXUS lanes.  The problem is therefore likely to grow.

However, the increasing delay does not mean you shouldn’t apply for the program.   The average interaction with a customs officer at the border is about a minute in the regular lanes and half that in the Nexus lanes.  In addition, many ports are not yet seeing any delay.  A NEXUS card is still a great idea for most travelers.

Nexus Information

The Nexus program allows Canadian and American travelers to pass through special dedicated lanes when driving between the two countries.     It makes border enforcement more efficient by allowing pre-screened travelers through inspection more quickly so border officials can  focus on travellers who have the potential to be high-risk.   For more information on the NEXUS Program see our webpage on types of allowable border documentation.

ezbordercrossing.com works to keep you informed about traffic or weather issues, port construction, legal issues, and most anything else regarding the U.S. / Canadian border.

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Jun 162017
 

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) finished a construction project to widen the lanes at the south end of the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge in Michigan.

The project reduced a “bottleneck” that was created when southbound trucks entering the U.S. blocked the inspection lanes for passenger vehicles. By widening the lanes between the end of the bridge and the inspection booths, trucks are now better able to get off the bridge and into the truck inspection lanes. This allows autos to proceed to inspection in the upper plaza.

ezbordercrossing.com works to keep you informed about traffic or weather issues, port construction, legal issues, and most anything else regarding the U.S. / Canadian border.

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Mar 212017
 

The long Easter weekend is celebrated in both the United States and Canada, producing much higher travel volumes at most border crossings between the countries.  Generally speaking, the delays entering the U.S. are longer than the delays entering Canada.

Make sure you are prepared for your border crossing by reviewing ezbordercrossing.com pages on the border crossing experienceprohibited items, and required documentation. You should always check our page for the specific port you are going to use to see if there are any traffic alerts or updates on wait times.

One other tip – before you hit a 2 hour line at the border make sure you have a reasonably full tank of gas and have used the restroom recently.

Special Customs Inspection Tips

Being prepared can make a big difference in how quickly you get through the border inspection.

  • Be prepared to detail any gifts you are bringing with you and, on your return, those you have have received.  You may have to pay duty on gifts if they exceed your personal exemption. Bring gift receipts with you.  Read through our pages on “Clearing Customs” and “How Much You Will Owe.”  We  also have a Duty Calculator for Canadian residents.
  • Do not wrap your gifts!  The border inspection officer can make you unwrap them for inspection.  One thing you can try is to leave one end open for inspection, but it is better to wrap gifts when you arrive at your destination.
  • Prohibited Items – make sure you read through our material on  prohibited items.  During the holiday season border inspectors seizes higher quantities of foreign fruits, vegetables, meats and animal/plant products.  Do not try to bring any Kinder Surprise eggs into the United States.   U.S. Customs considers these chocolate treats a dangerous choking threat because of the small plastic toy inside.  U.S. Customs will typically confiscate more than 60,000 Kinder Eggs every Easter.

Your Traffic Avoidance Game Plan

  • Your best chance to avoid traffic is to arrive at the border before 7 am or after 8 pm.  Simply put, leave early or late.   As a general rule, traffic is lighter in the mornings and tends to build throughout the day.
  • Some ports will open additional lanes at earlier times than usual.  For example, the U.S. CBP has typically opened up all lanes at Peace arch starting at 6:oo am on Good Friday.
  • If possible, use a smaller alternative border crossing rather than the major ports.  Of course, smaller ports may have fewer lanes and officers so you will have to weigh your choices.
  • Think about making an overnight stay on Thursday or returning mid-day Monday to avoid fighting peak periods.
  • Use NEXUS if everybody in the vehicle is a cardholder
  • Always check out the current border wait times on ezbordercrossing.com before hitting the road.  You should also review our page with Projected Canadian Wait Times.
  • You will want to keep an eye on our road conditions page as you near trip time to make sure you know what you will face on the roads.
  • Work at most construction sites will stop for the holiday but drivers should watch for shifted lanes, detours, and reduced-speed zones.
  • Customs typically opens all available lanes and adds staff to handle the heavy traffic over the weekend.  You should be prepared to move into lanes that might not normally be open.

Peak Easter Weekend Traffic Periods

Many Canadians have either 3 or 4 day holidays depending on which province they reside in.   Many businesses are closed on Good Friday that is the start of the heavy traffic.   Noon on Friday is the peak for many ports but traffic will be much heavier than usual throughout the entire weekend and on Monday.

Thousand Islands Bridge in New York has seen vehicles backed up to Highway 401.  Travelers entering the U.S.  have had to wait up to two hours Friday and Saturday because of heavy southbound traffic from Canada.

Lewiston-Queenston bridge – at times on Friday mornings and afternoons wait times into the U.S. have been up to 2 1/2 hours.

The Peace Bridge and Rainbow Bridge have seen wait times of up to 1 1/2 hours on Good Friday.   There are fewer delay heading into Canada than into the U.S.

In the New York Niagara Area your best bet is generally to use the Whirlpool Bridge if all passengers have a NEXUS card. Second choice is usually the Rainbow bridge.

Major ports such as Peace Arch in Washington State have traditionally experienced peak wait times longer than 3 hours.  The Peace Arch and the Blaine Pacific Truck Crossing are typically the busiest border crossings in Washington State. Consider using the Lynden / Aldergrove or Sumas / Abbotsford-Huntingdon ports.   In past years, travelers waited more than three hours and 20 minutes at noon on Good Friday at Peace Arch.   However, as wait times at the Peace Arch and Pacific crossings decreased during the day, they got longer at Lynden and Sumas.  These smaller ports have fewer lanes.

Special Law Enforcement

Many border states step up law enforcement over long weekends such as these.  Police  in New York, Ontario, and Quebec will coordinate an extensive traffic enforcement initiative called “Safety Without Borders” all around the U.S. / Canada border.  They will be focusing on violations such as speeding, cell phone use, texting, impaired driving, and  failure to wear safety restraints.  In prior years, this enforcement program has issued more than 1,100 tickets in a single day.  There will be special attention around the New York ports in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Thousand Islands, and Blackpool / Champlain.  Commercial vehicles will also be subject to heightened inspection activity to ensure they are in proper working order.

Ferry Service

Ferry services also experience heavier traffic during the Easter holidays.  Washington BC Ferries have traditionally been busy on Good Friday, with delays reported throughout the day.  You should consider making advance reservations, or plan to show up about an hour before departure time. Foot passengers should be at the terminal about 40 minutes ahead of departure.

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Sep 152013
 

Rainbow Bridge Update: The bridge has now been reopened and traffic is flowing normally.

The Rainbow Bridge will be closed for several hours Tuesday morning September 17th, 2013 for an international emergency preparedness exercise.  During this exercise, traffic will be rerouted to the Peace Bridge, Queenston-Lewiston Bridge and the Whirlpool Bridge.  Keep in mind that the Whirlpool Bridge can only be used if ALL persons in the vehicle are NEXUS Card holders.

To make the exercise more realistic for emergency response personnel, the exact time for the exercise will not be release until just before the start.  As a result, motorists will need to be prepared to change their plans on short notice.  We will update this post if we get any more information on the exercise time.

On the date of the exercise the twitter feed shown below from the Niagara Regional Police Service is supposed to provide the start and completion of the exercise.  We are including the real-time feed but you should realize it will only provide information on the bridge closure during the exercise window.


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Jun 142013
 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has modified the lane configuration at the U.S. Sumas port in Washington State.  The new configuration is as follows:

  • There is a dedicated NEXUS lane hours into the U.S. between the hours of 8am and 11am Monday through Friday.
  • The same lane becomes a “Ready Lane” from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Overhead LED signage will inform you as to whether the lane is set up as a NEXUS lane or Ready Lane.

As a “Ready Lane” it can be used by NEXUS members and travelers with RFID documents such as a U.S. Passport card, Global Entry card or Enhanced Driver’s License.

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