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Roosville border backups a safety concern, rep. says

Border crossing can sometimes mean spending a good deal of time waiting in line ups, but for those who live near the Roosville Port of Entry, there are bigger concerns.

Mike Cuffe, Representative for the State of Montana, said the issue is with traffic backing up at the Canadian entrance during high flow times. Cuffe said it impedes local traffic and is a concern for emergency vehicles which operate on both sides of the border.

"Eureka Fire Department provides coverage into the southeastern corner of British Columbia, and ambulance or police services could be needed by anyone living along the Highway 93 or hung up in the traffic jam," Cuffe said. "Business and private driveways are blocked. People can't get home from work. Trucks carrying forest products, gasoline and propane get hung up for hours."

Cuffe recently outlined his concerns at the AKBLG meeting in Creston earlier in April, and requested help in contacting the federal government, which has jurisdiction over the border crossings. Cuffe has talked to Kootenay Columbia MP David Wilks, as well as other MPs in the area.

When contacted last week, Wilks said it is an issue he is well aware of and brought up a couple years ago with then Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews in regards to upgrades at Roosville.

"Some upgrades have been done to the crossing, but I think what ended up happening in this — and what I was trying to explain in my presentation — was that it's all fine and dandy to have three lanes but when Highway 93 is only a single lane highway you could have 15 lanes, you still only have one lane going to them," Wilks said.

He said one problem was that when they did the upgrades to the Canadian border crossing, they put the new septic system on the eastern side of the highway.

Wilks added the argument is that since the federal government has just put in the new septic system, it doesn't want to demolish part of the rock face to move the septic.

"That's not my problem," Wilks said. "That's poor planning by someone."

Wilks said he will speak with the minister and his staff again in the next few weeks, and suggest that they look at expanding highway 93 to allow for better access into the three lanes.

"That would solve most of the problem," he said, adding both crossings have  three lanes. "The Americans, they have three lanes, but the they've widened their side of the highway so that you've got the two lines going into the border crossing. We have one line. It just keeps backing up."

He hopes the minister will come to an agreement to blast that rock face a little bit so that they can have two lines leading to the Canadian Port of Entry.

Cuffe said he will continue to put a spotlight on the problem. He said there is also an issue with not enough Canadian customs agents at the crossing during the busy times.

"The issue isn't with the inspectors at the station, the problem is that more inspectors are needed," he said.

He gave a number of suggestions to improve the flow of traffic through the border.

Cuffe's suggestions are:

1. Ensure the manning level assigned to this station is at full complement. Consider whether that number is sufficient or should be increased.

2. Open the three lanes of traffic early on peak traffic holidays.

3. Open a fourth inspection lane on the west side of the building, at least during peak traffic flow.

4. Begin use of Nexus Cards for a Fast Pass Lane.

5. Do long range planning.

Wilks said he agrees with every one of Cuffe's points.

"We need to find a way to have that traffic flow a little better," Wilks said.

Cuffe suggests that anyone concerned could add leverage to his efforts by reaching out to other MPs in B.C. and Alberta.

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