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Port of entry hours should be maintained

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to advance the closing time of two North Dakota ports of entry, citing a need to better use of personnel as the reason.

The Carbury and Antler ports, both in Bottineau County, will close earlier, at 7 p.m. and 5 p.m. respectively, rather than 10 p.m., beginning next Sunday unless CBP officials change their minds. They did change their minds regarding shortening the hours at the Maida port in Cavalier County after town hall meetings but didn’t retreat on the other two ports.

The CBP needs to reconsider.

The shorter hours have nothing to do with saving money. According to border officials, it is a matter of efficiency in being able to shift workers to busier ports when needed. With no evening crossings at Carbury and Antler, officials say travelers should simply plan ahead and adjust their trips accordingly.

The decision doesn’t take into account the routine travel that occurs between communities on either side of the border, nor does it consider the economic impact on the small communities. Although those numbers might not seem significant to CBP, these disruptions do affect residents who live along that section of the border.

Youth sports teams will lose sleep over the decision as they deal with extended travel times to return home from games in Manitoba, often on school nights. Canadians who use the Carbury and Antler ports in the evening to come down and enjoy the dining, shopping or other experiences south of the border also will have to time their crossings more carefully to avoid being met by a closed gate.

Inbound-only traffic counts from the U.S. Transportation Department show 5,178 personal vehicles carrying 9,994 passengers have crossed into North Dakota at Antler this year through September. At Carbury, 9,027 personal vehicles carrying 18,736 passengers have crossed.

Truck and automobile traffic were up at the Carbury and Antler ports in 2018. In 2018 at the Antler port, there were 7,502 inbound personal vehicles, up 3% from 2017, and 2,895 inbound trucks, up 19%. At Carbury, there were 11,877 inbound personal vehicles, up 3%, and 2,153 inbound trucks, up 24%.

Trucking is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. activity nor even a 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. activity. A longer route is an added cost to the industry as well as an inconvenience. As northcentral North Dakota seeks to position itself as a major trade corridor, reducing border hours is not beneficial.

The CBP should take another look at the need for reducing hours at Antler and Carbury. North Dakotans and Canadians deserve good transportation access, not more barriers.

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