Andnow for something completely different

Published on Thu, Nov 10, 2005 by eg Olson

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And now for something completely

By Meg Olson

Developer Joel Douglas is promoting a system he thinks will let Blaine businesses benefit from lines at the border.

“This is an absolute solution,” Douglas said of his proposal to let people in at the front of northbound border lines based on a time-stamped ticket. “This is a chance to get their money and a chance to do them a favor.”

The idea is for travelers heading for the Canadian border to stop at a ticket booth off I-5 somewhere south of the truck route exit. “The rest stop, maybe the outlet center – anything like that would work,” Douglas said. The ticket would have a time stamp equivalent to current estimated waits at the Pacific Highway and Douglas Highway Canadian ports of entry. For example, if you picked up a ticket at noon and the estimated wait was two hours, you would get a ticket stamped for 2 p.m. Any time after 2 p.m. you could go up the NEXUS lane or another access lane to a point near the head of the line where an employee of the program would have the authority to hold regular traffic and allow the ticket holder in. “Instead of waiting you get freedom,” Douglas said.

The system won’t run without a substantial budget, Douglas acknowledged, since it requires hiring people to sell tickets and let ticket holders back in line, as well as signage and some infrastructure. State and local funds could be used, he said, but if each ticket also came with an area guide advertising sales could pay for the cost of running the program.

The benefits of the system will far outweigh the cost of addressing any logistical challenges, Douglas said. Cars will be parked and their occupants spending money in the community, instead of burning fuel and polluting the air while their occupants get cranky. “This will create a festive atmosphere,” advertises the pamphlet Douglas hands out to local businesses, and it’s the surest way for Blaine to cash in on the numbers expected to cross the border for the 2010 Olympic Games in Whistler and Vancouver.

So far Douglas has brought the proposal to the Blaine Chamber of Commerce and the city council and neither has considered it. “They underestimate me,” Douglas said. He said he has had preliminary discussions with U.S. border authorities but has not approached the state department of transportation.