Canada to Mirror Hours at Port of Wild Horse During Pilot Program


by Charlie Keegan

Local, national and Canadian leaders met in Havre Tuesday to discuss the Port of Wild Horse. The roundtable discussion was sponsored by US Senator Jon Tester who has been pushing to make the port open around the clock.

Last summer, US Customs and Border Protection announced it was extending the Port of Wild Horse's summer hours as part of a pilot program to see if it warrants being open 24-7. Tuesday, Canadian officials announced their side of the port will also have extended hours for private and commercial vehicles starting March 28th.

“The point here is to provide Montanans and the businesses of Alberta an opportunity to demonstrate that if we build it, they will come,” Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection Alan Bersin says.

Throughout the pilot program, USCBP will be evaluating traffic through the port. “[We’ll see] What is the increase in traffic? And then, as a government and as a community and across the border with our colleagues in Canada, evaluate whether or not the costs are compensated for by the benefits,” Bersin explains.

Senator Tester says benefits to having a 24-7 port would be seen on both sides of the border. Saying, “I think there are some real economic opportunities we can take advantage of. If those hours are different, it kind of muddies the water. They're the same now, so people have dependable hours now.”

Canadian officials say the prospect of increased trade helped lead to their decision to extend hours on its side. “It will also help us support the community in expanding that trade corridor they're trying desperately to get,” Director of Canadian Border Services Agency Kevin Hewson says.

Paul Tuss, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, commissioned the University of Montana to study the economic impacts of having a 24-7 port north of Havre. “Should that happen, we would be creating upwards of 265 additional good paying jobs for Montana and there'd be a net income to the state of Montana of $12.5 million per year,” he says.

Tuss adds having meetings where both sides of the border are represented, like Tuesday’s, is the key to any economic development. Saying, “Economic development doesn't happen in a vacuum, economic development happens because you get people with the same goals together at the same time and work hard together to make sure things happen.”

“I've seen some real advances when it comes to communication between the countries. We need to work on that, we need to continue to work on that because that's really what's going to make things work better for both countries,” Tester says.

The Port of Wild Horse is open from 8 am to 9 pm seven days a week until winter hours take over on October 31st.

Currently, the Ports of Sweetgrass, Raymond and Roosville are the only border crossings in Montana open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.