The General Services Administration is conducting rock blasting along Interstate 81 in upstate New York to clear room for a new border inspection facility with enough capacity to process trucks.
GSA started the $215 million project to expand and modernize the Alexandria Bay Land Port of Entry in August, and the agency’s blasting activity to remove a rocky outcrop will continue through the spring. Agency spokeswoman Alison Kohler said traffic may be stopped for 30-minute intervals, and travelers are instructed to expect noise, vibration and dust while the blasting occurs.
The Alexandria Bay port, located near the northeastern tip of Lake Ontario, processes commercial and passenger traffic moving between the United States and Canada. Kohler said the project will be “a complete modernization and expansion” of the port and that all existing buildings will be demolished and replaced.
“The finished project will increase the overall efficiency of the port and improve traffic flow,” Kohler said. “A safe, secure and modern land port is critical to ensuring an efficient flow of commerce and people that support American jobs and economic growth.”
The existing facility has five passenger lanes and three commercial lanes. According to Kohler, the completed project will have 14 primary inspection lanes to process passenger traffic, eight of which will be equipped for both commercial and passenger vehicles. One lane will be devoted to oversize commercial loads.
Besides larger queuing and inspection areas, Kohler said the port will include better-defined truck queuing and maneuvering areas.
Alexandria Bay is an important juncture for freight movement.
Tim Walker, Alexandria Bay area port director, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection processed more than 200,000 commercial vehicles and just upward of 590,000 passenger vehicles at the port last year. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 18,105 trucks passed through the Alexandria Bay port in October.
“It’s going to be a lot of free flow of traffic,” said Phil Reed, executive director of the Northern New York Builders Exchange, a member organization consisting of construction-related companies such as contractors. “It’s actually a very important thing for us here in Jefferson County.”
Reed said that organization representatives attended meetings and sent out notices to connect subcontractors and vendors with contractors for GSA’s project.
He is a longtime resident of Jefferson County, where the project is taking place. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 114,006 people resided in Jefferson County in 2016.
“Growing up around here, getting freight back and forth in a timely fashion is a huge issue, and this is going to greatly expedite a lot of wait there,” Reed said. “It’s going to modernize the facility. A lot of people are looking forward to the new expanded facility, not just freight companies, but the public in general, too.”
GSA’s project is divided into two phases. Phase 1 includes the construction of a commercial inspection warehouse with inspection bays, commercial inspection lanes with split-level booths for commercial and noncommercial loads, an impound lot and a portion of elevated parking. It is estimated to be completed in January 2020.
The start of Phase 2 construction depends on the receipt of appropriations as proposed in President Donald Trump’s fiscal-year 2018 budget, Kohler said. It includes the construction of a main administration building, an outbound inspection facility, a veterinary services building and noncommercial inspection lanes.
“Given [U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s] primary mission to protect our borders and communities,” Walker said, “providing our officers with a modern facility is critical to ensure they are best able to complete that mission.”