Montana bill would expand hours of Turner port of entry

| 1/29/2009

The Montana Senate approved a bill Saturday, Jan. 24, that would urge 24-hour operation for the Turner port of entry on state Highway 241 in the northeastern portion of the state.

The port of entry located 12 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border now is open seven days a week. From Sept. 16 to May 31 each year, the facility is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. From June 1 to Sept. 15, the facility extends its hours from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sen. Ken Hansen, D-Harlem, introduced the non-binding resolution that would make the Turner facility available throughout the day and night. Hansen wrote in the measure that the change is needed because there is only one 24-hour commercial entry on the state’s border with Canada.

Hansen touts the advantages of expanding hours at the Turner facility. Those advantages include addressing an escalating amount of commercial traffic that serves the oil sands region in Canada and the new oil fields in the Bakken formation in Montana and also focusing on “other commercial opportunities” in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.

Also highlighted in the measure is the need to make the facility available 24 hours a day to accommodate the development of the trade corridor from Saskatchewan to Billings, MT, and Interstate 90.

According to safety statistics from the North America Free Trade Association, the Turner port of entry had 324 crossings from commercial vehicles in 2007. The facility ranks 10th among the state’s 13 crossings.

Joe Rajkovacz, regulatory affairs specialist for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said it would be a benefit for any border crossing with commercial vehicles transiting through to extend their hours.

He also pointed out that when truckers know they can’t get through a particular checkpoint they tend to pick alternate routes that can be significantly more miles.

“Anything that eases the burden on truckers is a good thing,” Rajkovacz told Land Line.

However, the infrequency of commercial traffic passing through the Turner facility left Rajkovacz questioning the need for longer hours at the site.

“The fact there is only one commercial vehicle a day there says a lot,” Rajkovacz said. “This is a day and age where Americans hate to see their tax dollars wasted. This clearly would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

The resolution – SJ6 – has moved to the House Business and Labor Committee for further consideration.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Montana in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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