The Emerson port of entry will be undergoing a $62-million expansion project to increase efficiency, tourism, trade and economic development.
Canadian and American government officials and representatives of Manitoba organizations met at the port Friday afternoon to discuss how it can be improved and ways to benefit drivers travelling in and out of the two countries.
The goal of the project is to divide commercial vehicles from passenger vehicles to reduce backlogs and wait times. The plan is to move the commercial lanes further over to the west of the facility. Currently, both types of travellers merge in the same lane.
At Friday’s meeting, attendees took a tour of the facility followed by a conversation to discuss a functional design layout, the proposed redevelopment concept in Manitoba, timelines, and what the Canadian Border Services Agency has already started in terms of the commercial expansion.
It is estimated the project will yield $488-million in economic development between Canada and the U.S., said Simon Resch, vice president of Duty Free Shop Ventures and director of Manitoba Tourism.
“That’s going to drive efficiency, it will reduce delay and congestion at the border, it’ll make it much safer and much more enjoyable for both tourists and commercial drivers travelling south through this port,” said Resch.
Chuck Davidson, president and CEO of Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, said this project is long overdue. He added that Travel Manitoba is investing heavily in the U.S., so it should be a priority to improve the experience of tourists moving through the port to increase tourism in Manitoba altogether.
“One of the things we want to make sure is that [tourists] have that great entry point, whether it’s at an airport or whether it’s at a border crossing, we want to make that’s seamless so they get in in a timely fashion and are able to get home in a timely fashion as well,” said Davidson.
Part of the cost will be covered by government funding, granted when the Conservative party was in power.
Conservative MP Candice Bergen said, while it was beneficial to her to tour the facility, she agreed that more should be done to improve the port’s transitional process.
The Emerson port of entry is the fifth largest in Canada in terms of commercial volume.