Feds allocate $187 million for new port of entry on Alaska Highway
Alcan Port of Entry is the busiest commercial traffic portal among Alaska's five border crossings, CBP says
Work is expected to begin this summer on a new port of entry on the Alaska Highway. It’s the busiest commercial crossing on the Canadian border. And the new larger port will enable both travelers and commercial trucks to get through Customs more quickly.
The new AlCan Land Port of Entry will replace the facility built back in 1971. Many more vehicles pass through the port now, which is why the new one will be bigger and better-configured to handle all that traffic.
“It’s going to be better for travelers and the commercial folks that we get through there,” says Kymberly Fernandez, the assistant area port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP.
Fernandez, who’s based in Anchorage, said in an interview Thursday that the new Alcan port will include an inspection building big enough to accommodate 18-wheelers and other big rigs.
“Right now, if we have a truck that comes through that has to be inspected, there is no inspection facility there,” she said. “It’s not large enough for that, and we don’t have the equipment.”
Fernandez says when that happens in the winter, the CBP officers often won’t open the back doors of the trailer, because that could risk freezing the contents while an inspection is under way. So now, an officer must follow the rig 300 miles north to Fairbanks, where it can be inspected.
“It’s kind of a waste of resources,” she said, “and it’s not good for the company, when we could do it much quicker if we had a warm bay to pull it into.”
The Alcan Port of Entry is the busiest commercial-vehicle portal of the five border crossings scattered along the 1,500-mile Alaska-Canada border. And it’s also the most remote, so housing and other facilities must be built to make the port fully self-contained.
“It will generate its own power,” she said. :It’ll have its own water supply, handle its own refuse. There will still be an ambulance, emergency service provided at the port.”
Fernandez says the number of CBP officers assigned to the new facility will likely grow from the 12 working out of there to around 15.
“It’s a large project,” she said. “It’s been a long time in the making.”
And it’s badly needed. Alaska’s congressional delegation hailed the project, saying it’s important not only for travelers but also the state’s economy, food security and border security. The federal government allocated $187 dollars for the project, out of the infrastructure bill Congress approved in November. But Fernandez said it’s not yet a done deal, so the construction timeframe and other details are still up in the air.
“I know it’s all dependent on funding being released by Congress,” she said, “and I believe that cleared most of the hurdles, but it certainly isn’t official yet.”
Fernandez says Customs and Border Protection officials hope to get the go-ahead for the project soon. And she says it’s expected to take at least a couple of years to complete.