The BC Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure and US Customs and Border Protection have finalized design plans for the southbound Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lane at the Pacific Highway truck crossing between BC and Washington State.
Following a FAST lane pilot project (which opened the lane to all commercial vehicles) and consistent with recommendations from the B.C. Trucking Association, the design plans restore a dedicated FAST approach lane and include extensive upgrades to the holding area for commercial trucks at the Port of Entry.
Construction of the new approach lane and holding area is expected to be complete by March 31, 2012, with other potential upgrades to follow in the near future.
The new holding area will undergo a complete redesign, including an increase in holding capacity to accommodate up to 36 commercial tractor trailers, sensor activated signal lights directing trucks to the next available primary inspection booth, a queue-jump lane for FAST trucks, and closed-circuit cameras to monitor and enforce against unauthorized use of the FAST queue-jump lane.
More efficient use of space within the holding area will eliminate backup of commercial trucks onto the Pacific Highway (Highway 15). While FAST trucks will no longer have a dedicated primary inspection booth, they will be given priority to proceed to the next available inspection booth ahead of non-FAST trucks waiting in queue.
The existing commercial truck approach lane behind the West Coast Tax and Duty Free between the holding area and 2nd Avenue will be twinned, with one lane becoming a dedicated approach lane for FAST trucks and the other for non-FAST trucks.
As a result of the added capacity in the holding area and with all three primary inspection booths open, the maximum peak period queue of non-FAST trucks will not extend onto 2nd Avenue, meaning that there will be unimpeded access for FAST trucks to the dedicated lane behind the Duty Free.
BCTA says the redesign strikes a balance between maintaining benefits for FAST trucks and reducing border wait times for non-FAST trucks. Compared with the southbound approach lane and primary inspection booth configuration prior to the FAST pilot, average maximum wait time for FAST trucks is expected to increase by 3 minutes while the average maximum wait time for non-FAST trucks is expected to decrease by 47 minutes.
Planned Future Upgrades
The Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recognize the potential need for additional upgrades as cross-border truck volumes increase, including restoring a dedicated FAST approach lane on Highway 15, which MoTI planned in conjunction with upgrades to the holding area, and dual approach lanes behind the Duty Free.
However, restoring a dedicated FAST lane on Highway 15 at 8th Avenue with a connection to the dedicated lane behind the Duty Free will necessitate the widening of Highway 15 and changes to the intersection at 2nd Avenue.
The Ministry has initiated the process of acquiring land for this purpose, reports BCTA.