HIGHGATE SPRINGS, Vt. – Senator Patrick Leahy joined U.S. General Services Administration Administrator Robin Carnahan on Wednesday for a tour of the Highgate Springs border crossing, one of 30 ports of entry across the U.S. that would receive major upgrades under a bipartisan infrastructure deal.
The deal passed the U.S. Senate last month, but has yet to pass in the House. Advocates say it’ll make historic job-creating investments while modernizing America’s roads, bridges and railroads. Leahy said the impact it would have on border crossings is also significant, and the deal presents a rare opportunity to address shortcomings at facilities like the Highgate Springs Port of Entry.
“We have such a relationship with Canada – trade, family, tourism,” Leahy said. “It’s being limited on both sides because our ports of entry are not up to date. It’s going to greatly benefit us in Vermont and Upstate New York, but it’ll also benefit Canada.”
The bill includes $3.5 billion to modernize border crossings, including Highgate Springs and four others in Vermont — Alburg Springs, Richford, Norton and Beebe Plain — that would receive a combined $285 million for upgrades.
Carnahan said the Highgate project is particularly important because the primary route for traffic between Montreal and Boston will soon be extended to link up with Interstate 89 at the border.
“The highway project of A-35 is going to be finished up pretty soon, which is going to increase the flow of traffic by at least 30 percent, which means there’s going to be more activity here at this port,” Carnahan said. “In order to make this a smooth flow both for commerce and for people, we want to be able to upgrade those facilities.”
Leahy said the importance of making international travel as hassle-free as possible can’t be understated, especially emerging from an extended shutdown.
“The economies of communities on both sides of the border are intertwined, and the closure over the last eighteen months has had a huge impact,” Leahy said. “We all know that the process for crossing the border has changed in the last 20 years. Yet some of the ports they travel through, like at Beebee Plain in Derby, there have been few upgrades since they were built more than 80 years ago. At others, like here in Highgate, there can be significant delays in crossing at peak times.”