SAULT STE. MARIE - The number of crossings at the International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie increased last year, while bridge officials were able to reduce traffic wait times for southbound travelers by 30 percent.
The International Bridge Administration reported 2.1 million total crossings for 2013, which represents an increase of 1.64 percent over 2012.
Officials with the IBA credited the wait time reduction to some new measures put in place, along with cooperation with border authorities. In a news release, administration officials said three new webcams are trained on parts of the bridge where traffic backs up during busy days. A new bridge wait time webpage forecasts potential travel delays.
This undated aerial photo provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows a view looking southward of the International Bridge crossing the St. Marys River, connecting Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Bridge officials announced recently that bridge crossings were up slightly in 2013 while wait time was reduced. (AP photo)
"These things helped customers make informed decisions when planning their cross-border travel," IBA general manager Phil Becker said. "It actually allowed the wait times to self-regulate."
Southbound traffic wait times into the U.S. were down from 24 minutes in 2012 to 16 minutes last year. Northbound wait times were up from 10 minutes to 13 minutes. Officials attributed the slow down to the Canada Border Services Agency implementing a photo identification verification requirement in 2013.
Among the bridge crossing statistics, automobile traffic was down 1.5 percent, while commuter fare automobile traffic increased 4.8 percent and commercial truck traffic was down 1 percent.
The administration said last year's 95,548 commercial truck crossings was the lowest annual total posted since 1993.
"There could be any number of economic factors influencing the long slide in truck crossings that began in 2004, when 133,773 trucks crossed," Becker said. "U.S.-bound and Canada-bound crossings are fairly evenly balanced. Government statistics indicate that, despite the decline in truck crossing, the value of goods transported by truck across the bridge will show a marginal increase in 2013."
As the name implies, the International Bridge connects the U.S. and Canada over a roughly three-mile span between the cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Ontario. Work to build the bridge began in 1960 and the structure opened to traffic in October 1962. A golden anniversary celebration was held in 2012.
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