WELLESLEY ISLAND, N.Y. (WWTI) — For the first time in 20 months, the United States border reopened to non-essential travelers on November 8.
This highly anticipated reopening allowed non-citizens to cross into the country for reasons such as recreation, to visit family and to return to properties through U.S. land ports of entry and ferry terminals.
To cross the border, non-citizen travelers must attest to being fully COVID-19 vaccinated, along with providing proper documents. Physical proof of COVID-19 vaccinations will not be required for non-essential and essential travelers until January.
At the Alexandria Bay Land Port of Entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Kurt Tennant, vehicles began lining up at midnight. Some even had preliminary celebrations on the Canadian side of the border.
“Our traffic started at midnight. Last night, we were warned that there was people in RVs lining up four hours before midnight having a tailgate party on the Canadian side,” Chief Tennant shared. “And when I came in at four o’clock in the morning, the lineup was all the way back to the. And it’s been like this all day long.”
Chief Tennant said that RV traffic was a large issue at the border on Monday as Canadian “Snowbirds” are now traveling in large volumes to destinations in Florida and Texas.
“Normally we start seeing people from Canada come down to go to Florida in about the beginning of October and all these people that normally would have already been down there, are all coming here on the same day,” he said.
Prior to the border reopening, crews on Wellesley Island have been preparing for high travel volumes. Right now, it’s all hands on deck.
We’ve tried to bring as many people in today. Uh, so that we’d be staffed up for this, but also the construction crews were, were excellent.
“Last week, they repaved an area above the primary lanes. It’s a ramp going up to where the new port is going to be,” Tennant said. So that enabled us to push more traffic down, better than we thought we’d be able to.”
The local Port of Entry also remains under construction, which required additional preparations as RV traffic had to be redirected and there are currently only four lanes open to car traffic.
But ahead of the holiday season, Chief Tennant offered advice for all travelers at Alexandria Bay, and other local ports of entry in the North Country.
“Daytime hours on Fridays and Saturdays tend to be the busiest days for passenger cars to cross. So, just keep in mind, try and be patient with us,” He urged travelers. “We haven’t had, this kind of traffic in 20 months and we’re having to learn how to ride the bicycle again.”