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T.I. Bridge operator: federal cuts will harm region’s tourism

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COLLINS LANDING — Federal spending cuts that kick in today will inevitably cause major traffic delays at the U.S.-Canadian border, hampering visitation in a region that relies heavily on tourism, according to Thousand Islands Bridge operators.

Robert G. Horr III, executive director of the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, said Thursday sequestration — automatic, across-the-board budget cuts amounting to $102 billion in the first year alone — will leave the U.S. Customs and Border Protection seriously understaffed.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday the cuts would be equal to 5,000 fewer border patrol agents, according to the Associated Press.

“We’re certainly worried. They’re going to have to close border lanes because they can’t staff them,” Mr. Horr said.

Staff cuts combined with reduced overtime and furloughs means longer wait times and more congestion at the Collins Landing port of entry, Mr. Horr said.

Already, travelers crossing the border at Wellesley Island occasionally experience hours-long delays over summer weekends and some holidays.

While the bridge authority is ready to “help keep things organized” with traffic control, Mr. Horr said, it cannot help speed up the actual processing.

“We’re concerned about Boldt Castle as well because Heart Island’s a port of entry,” he said.

Thousand Islands Bridge Authority owns and operates the landmark attraction on the St. Lawrence River.

Mr. Horr said businesses in the north country that rely on tourism should all feel the impact of Customs reductions this summer, as border delays will most likely deter some tourists from visiting the region.

“I think the whole region should be concerned,” Mr. Horr said.

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