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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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OBPA: Steady bridge traffic increase thanks to Canadian shoppers

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OGDENSBURG - Traffic across the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge is continuing a steady climb thanks to a growing number of Canadian visitors to Ogdensburg.

Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Deputy Director Frederick S. Morrill told authority board members at their meeting Wednesday that car traffic increased 8 percent in April over April 2012, with a total of 56,693 cars crossing the span versus 52,366 last year. Truck traffic was down 1.77 percent for the same month, with 5,899 trucks crossing versus 6,005 last year. The net change in total traffic shows an increase of about 7 percent, he said.

“We’ve been seeing this increase for scores of months now,” Mr. Morrill said. “All I can think of for a reason is the Canadian shoppers coming over for gas and groceries. There is an awful lot of that.”

He said it appears more Canadians are also coming over to pick up mail-order shipments, taking advantage of free domestic shipping within the U.S. for purchases through online retailers.

“We now have a couple of businesses in our industrial park doing that, and the UPS Store has a tremendous business,” he said.

He said he could not explain the decrease in commercial traffic, although that also posted a slight decrease at this time last year.

“I think it’s a blip,” he said. “For the five months before that it was up.”

The bridge toll for cars and two-axle trucks is $2.75, and ranges from $5 to $16 for trucks with three to 10 axles, with $1 added for each axle beyond 10. Mr. Morrill said he is still calculating how much of an increase in revenue the OBPA has experienced with more traffic. He said factored in to the equation are discounted rates frequent travelers enjoy with bulk pass purchases through the authority and toll discounts the city’s retailers and restaurants offer to customers.

Despite the lack of a dollars-and-cents figure, Executive Director Wade A. Davis expects the corresponding revenue increase to be significant.

He said increased bridge traffic says a lot about the span.

“It really speaks to the relevance of the structure,” he said. “It’s got the highest design capacity and the lowest utilization of any of the three bridges. We are pleased to see the utilization increase because that stresses its importance, and hopefully will support funding for its rehabilitation.”

Mr. Davis said annual freight traffic across the bridge has a value of about $4 billion.

Mr. Morrill said of the north country’s three St. Lawrence River crossings, the Ogdensburg-Prescott Bridge’s April numbers represent the highest increase in traffic.

Thousand Island Bridge officials last month reported a 1.8 percent decrease in passenger traffic from January to April, and a 2.6 percent increase in commercial traffic for the same period.

A Seaway International Bridge Corp. official did not return a call Wednesday seeking passenger and commercial traffic numbers for that crossing, which connects Massena and Cornwall, Ont.

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