Washington state

As northern border agents head south, wait times in Whatcom could rise this summer

Crossing the U.S.-Canada border? Here’s what you need to know

Whatcom County has 5 border crossings into Canada, including one of the busiest in the U.S. If you're traveling to British Columbia, here's what you need to know.
Up Next
Whatcom County has 5 border crossings into Canada, including one of the busiest in the U.S. If you're traveling to British Columbia, here's what you need to know.

A temporary redeployment of border agents to the southern border could mean longer wait times this summer at the five Whatcom County border crossings.

The Associated Press reported on May 12 that 731 northern border agents are in the process of being sent to the U.S.-Mexico border to help handle the influx of families and unaccompanied children from Central America.

This is happening at the start of the peak travel season along the northern border. Between May and August, the border typically sees the highest number of southbound visitors into Whatcom County. This weekend is expected to be particularly busy as Canadians celebrate Victoria Day on May 20.

According to data compiled by the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University, the average monthly total of southbound travelers into Whatcom County was more than 1.3 million between last May and August. The peak month in 2018 was in August, when nearly 1.5 million people crossed the border into Whatcom County.

Laurie Trautman, director of the research institute, said no matter how many border agents from the U.S.-Canada border actually are redeployed south, she expects it will have an impact on wait times this summer.

In May 2018 the average traffic wait times going southbound into Whatcom County peaked at approximately 21 minutes during the noon hour on weekends. Going into Canada, it’s a similar situation with peak average wait times hitting around 21 minutes at 11 a.m.

In August 2018 those peak average wait times for traffic coming into Whatcom County rise to more than 33 minutes on the weekends. according to data from the Whatcom Council of Governments.

For Whatcom County residents, Trautman suggested getting enrolled in the NEXUS program to take advantage of the shorter NEXUS lane lines. She said many people don’t realize getting a NEXUS program automatically enrolls them into TSA Precheck for airports.

“So it is well worth getting the (NEXUS) card, even if they don’t cross the border frequently,” Trautman said in an email.

Follow more of our reporting on Whatcom Business

See all 9 stories
Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.
  Comments