People gathered at the International Bridge Plaza on Wednesday afternoon for the official ribbon cutting.
Local MP Terry Sheehan was joined by members of the Canadian Border Services Agency and Micheline Dubé of The Federal Bridge Corporation Limited to announce the official opening of the plaza.
Although the port of entry was technically complete in December of 2017, the FBCL and CBSA wanted to wait until the weather was nicer for the grand opening of the crossing.
“We finished in December of 2017 – not a good time to do an official opening – and of course we’ve been doing the final landscaping, final little details,” said Michelline Dubé, President and CEO of the FBCL. “We took advantage of the situation also to widen the north channel bridge approach, so that was good. We’ve still got about $100 thousand worth of minor details to do, including flagpoles and things like that, but basically, the project is complete.”
This $51 million project took nine years to complete and replaces the original facility built in 1962. The new facility – at 46,000 square feet – is more than four times the size of the old one. The infrastructure improvements included the complete renovation and expansion of the entire Canadian plaza – including an expansion of the CBSA travellers’ facility, the secondary examination facilities and better roadways.
The old facility had five primary inspection lanes, which included three regular lanes, one bus lane and one dual lane used to process both traveller and commercial volume. The new facility has four regular lanes, one bus lane and two dual commercial and traffic lanes, for a total of seven lanes.
The new buildings allow border services officers to be more effective and better-equipped at their jobs, with detention areas three times bigger than the original ones, five interview rooms to be used for immigration and customs purposes and a full off-load facility, equipped with a forklift and three unloading bays in the segregated commercial building.
The remodeled port of entrance enables the CBSA to process travellers more efficiently, better managing border wait times. The infrastructure improvements ensure that the point of entrance is ready to handle projected increases in traffic flow for many years to come.
Dubé said she thinks this upgraded facility will have a positive impact on both twin Saults.
“This border crossing is the only one within 800 km, so you do not have a CBSA facility for another 800 kms,” she explained. “It’s very key to the traffic – both commercial and passenger traffic here between Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. And, of course, Canada relies on its imports and exports, so having this facility being able to process more vehicles, more trucks, is certainly going to be, at the end of the day, a positive for the community.”
Sheehan, a former Lakehead University student, used to use the ports of entry on both sides. He said he thinks the new, “vastly improved” facility is important for a plethora of reasons.
“Overall, it’s important, for trade, for commerce, for tourism, for students, for Canadians coming back as well, to have an improved facility. One of the things now, is with the new lanes that are open, with the new facility open, we can process much more, quicker, efficiently and safely, entry into Canada, and this is underlined and highlighted with particular attention to what’s happening with the steel industry right now, and how mindful the processing of commercial traffic is so important,” he explained.
“I think that one of the things this highlights is the importance to be able to efficiently process trade and commercialization. We want to get back to normal – that’s one of the key things I’m working on as co-chair of the steel caucus, to get rid of the unfair American tariffs. We’ve also had to put counter-tariffs on steel and aluminum products. Well of course that needs to be dealt with here at entry. These people here are doing a wonderful job in supporting all industry, including the steel industry here in Canada.”