Two crossing stations on the Minnesota-Canada border in northwestern Minnesota will be closing earlier starting in January, and residents aren’t happy about it.
“It’s a head-scratcher,” Roseau Mayor Jeff Pelowski said of the plan by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to reduce hours at ports of entry in Roseau and Lancaster.
The agency recently announced that it would cut back operating hours at both ports starting Jan. 7. In Roseau, the port on state Hwy. 310 will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; it now stays open until midnight. In Lancaster, the port on U.S. Hwy. 59 — now open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. — will close at 4 p.m.
Federal border officials said neither port gets much traffic in the evening hours, and travelers can cross the border at 24-hour stations in Warroad and in Pembina, N.D., about 20 to 25 miles from Roseau and Lancaster, respectively.
But local residents are furious about a move they say will harm their economies and greatly inconvenience travelers and workers in an area where international traffic is a fact of daily life. Hundreds of people in the thinly populated area turned out to voice objections at public meetings held earlier this month in Roseau and Lancaster.
“The Canadians like to travel, and a lot of them come through our station on their way to Minnesota,” said Charlie Bernstrom, who owns a gas station and convenience store in Lancaster. “[Closing at] 4 p.m. on a main United States highway is pretty ridiculous,” he added, noting that U.S. 59 runs all the way to Texas.
Bernstrom said the reduced hours could cost his business as much as $300,000 a year. Other area businesses — resorts, restaurants, grocery stores and golf courses — also could be affected, he said.
In Roseau, with major employers such as Polaris Industries and a regional hospital, the impact could be much more severe, Pelowski said.
“Polaris has about 1,500 employees in Roseau,” he said, and the plant gets about 17 semitrailer loads a day through the port. Lifecare Medical Center has 450 employees and serves not only Minnesotans, but patients in southeastern Manitoba as well.
The area’s state and federal legislative delegations have been working to get CBP to change the decision, Pelowski said.
“Everybody that I know of is opposed to it,” he said. “They’re not going to save a dime by doing this, yet they’re going to create all these problems.”
John Reinan • 612-673-7402