Aldergrove border may be closed to truck traffic

A proposal to close the Aldergrove/Lynden border crossing to both north and southbound commercial shipments has a number of business groups upset. They faced the same dilemma three years ago. - Natasha JONES/Langley Times file photo
A proposal to close the Aldergrove/Lynden border crossing to both north and southbound commercial shipments has a number of business groups upset. They faced the same dilemma three years ago.
— image credit: Natasha JONES/Langley Times file photo

The federal government wants commercial truck traffic heading to and from the U.S. to use a point of entry other than the Aldergrove-Lynden border crossing.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) says that security measures in place at the crossing are insufficient to intercept drugs and weapons. The Aldergrove facility is to be replaced, but the government hasn’t said if the new crossing will be equipped to handle commercial vehicles.

The news has come as a shock to the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce which is now preparing a business case that supports retaining the crossing for commercial vehicles.

Closure would be “devastating” from an economic point of view, said Chamber executive director Lynn Whitehouse.

“We have sent a call to local businesses that if they use it for commercial purposes, we need to hear from them.”

Word is spreading about the government’s plan which Whitehouse said would have a significant impact on the business community.

As Langley and the rest of the Lower Mainland continues to develop, border lineups will only increase, she said.

Whitehouse said the Chamber appreciates the challenges of the Aldergrove-Lynden border crossing, but claims that the current level of commercial traffic can be maintained.

In 2009, the crossing was closed for two weeks to reconfigure the truck booth so that it could be raised to the level of a truck cab, and lowered for passenger vehicles.

The Times has obtained a letter to the Surrey Board of Trade from Public Safety Minister Vic Toews who said that CBSA determined that “a proper facility” is required to examine goods and vehicles entering Canada at the Aldergrove crossing.

“Without such a facility . . . the safety and security of Canadians will be compromised,” Toews wrote in the letter last week.

He said that the Aldergrove crossing was built primarily for passenger vehicles “and is not adequately equipped to process commercial vehicles.”

Furthermore, although the crossing sees substantial commercial traffic it was not designed to accommodate that volume of commercial traffic, he said, noting that there is no primary or secondary area to examine trucks.

“These factors have resulted in a considerable increase in the risk of smuggling as well as a greater challenge to the CBSA’s ability to detect high-risk contraband and people,” he said.

The  Aldergrove border crossing buildings are being replaced, but Toews’ letter said that discussions will be held with CBSA and stakeholders “to determine whether or not the new facility will include commercial capabilities.”

In August, 2010, a plan was developed to re-direct commercial carriers to Abbotsford-Huntingdon and Pacific Highway crossings which are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

The Aldergrove crossing operates daily from 8 a.m. to midnight.

CBSA issues permits to operators if they have to use the Aldergrove crossing.

Toews said that 74 per cent of commercial carriers that used the Aldergrove facility now use the two larger points of entry. The remaining 26 per cent have permits to cross the border at Aldergrove.

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