Blaine border leading the way in trade, travel activity

Coming out of the recession, Blaine border activity bounced back stronger than other major northern crossings.

That’s one finding in a recent report from the Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University, which looked at data for trade and travel patterns following the recession. Between 2010 and 2016, commercial truck traffic activity increased 14.9 percent at the Blaine border crossing, trailing only Port Huron, Mich. among the eight busiest northern border crossings.

Among those eight, Blaine was the only one to post an increase in passenger vehicle activity between 2010 and 2016, rising 15.9 percent.

That jump in border activity for Blaine indicates this area was more responsive to the strengthening Canadian dollar during that period, said Laurie Trautman, director at the border policy institute. This border tends to have more cross-border shoppers than in border crossings like Detroit, which tends to have a higher percentage of workers and trade crossing back and forth.

The lower British Columbia mainland has also had strong population growth during that period, creating even more cross-border travelers into the U.S. when the loonie reached parity with the U.S. dollar.

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. also provided a bump in activity, particularly for passenger vehicles, Trautman said.

“I think more people realized that the border was easy to cross during the Olympics,” she said.

Trautman believes Blaine will continue to outperform many of the other busy northern border crossings because of the strong economic climate in both Seattle and Vancouver.

Activity levels could change if NAFTA is drastically altered or falls apart. Currently the trade agreement is being negotiated between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

If the trade deal collapses, Trautman said the crossings that focus on the auto industry on both sides of the border like Detroit-Windsor would be impacted more than Blaine, which has a more diverse economy.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz