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Freight Wait Times at the Canada-US Border

March 31, 2008

Albrecht 2008

Susan Albrecht (left) and Anne Goodchild, Civil and Environmental Engineering visiting the Port of Seattle.

For the last year and a half, I have been a research assistant in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in Professor Anne Goodchild’s research program, the Goods Movement Collaborative. The Collaborative is composed of an interdisciplinary group of graduate students who are engaged in research in various aspects of transportation, ports and the movement of goods.

The first year I worked on a research project that focused on service times at the Lower British Columbia and Whatcom County border crossings for freight carriers. We collected quantitative and qualitative data regarding variable border crossing times. Variable crossing times can cause significant transportation planning challenges for companies, which must either allow more time than is necessary or risk missing delivery windows. This border crossing is the fourth busiest commercial crossing on the US-Canadian border, and the most significant commercial crossing for the Western portion of this border. We talked to 20 companies that cross this border frequently – 13 US and seven Canadian – in order to get a better idea of the impact to regional carriers and to better understand the current impact of this variability on regional supply chains. As a result of our interviews, we identified seven strategies companies use for minimizing the impact of variability on their operations.

I co-authored the final paper, “Service time variability at the Blaine, Washington international border crossing and the impact on regional supply chains” and had the opportunity to present the results of this research at the World Conference on Transportation Research in Berkeley, California, in June 2007, as well as at the Border Regions in Transition conference in Victoria, British Columbia and Bellingham, Washington in January 2008.

Late summer and fall of 2007, Professor Goodchild asked me to assist on a separate project on the opening of a new deep water port and container terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, which culminated in a paper we presented at The 4th Annual Steelhead Symposium Ports, Politics and the Pacific Gateway: Consequences for Regional Development in Western Canada in Prince Rupert entitled, “A container terminal at the Port of Prince Rupert: Considerations from a transportation perspective.”

This year we are examining data that emerged from our previous work on border crossing times, specifically focusing on freight transportation in the Western Cascadia Border region. Our data shows there is a regional trucking pattern that is a function of this border region’s trade, geography, and infrastructure. The emergence of cross border regions is a new and growing field, but one that demonstrates that strong and multidimensional linkages are taking hold at the regional level. Through our research, we suggest the Western Cascadia region is an area that has substantial links. In particular the Seattle-Vancouver corridor is a vital trade and freight transportation gateway.

Susan Albrecht has a Master’s in Policy Studies and is finishing a Master’s in International Studies with the Jackson School of International Studies. She has also completed graduate certificates in Global Trade, Transportation and Logistics, and Environmental Management with the Program on the Environment. Her academic research focuses on international security, energy and environmental policy. As a research assistant in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Susan has assisted in research and co-authored papers on transportation logistics at the US-Canadian border and the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia.