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Bridge crossings drop dramatically as US-Canada border closure extended

A semi-truck makes its way across the Thousand Islands International Bridge in Alexandria Bay on Wednesday. (Provided photo — Emil Lippe/Watertown Daily Times)

WATERTOWN — Traffic across the three international bridges in the North Country plummeted more than 60 percent in April compared to April 2019 following the March 21 closure of the U.S.-Canadian border due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge saw the biggest hit to traffic, experiencing a 92.2 percent decline in passenger vehicle volume compared to a year ago, dropping from 45,707 vehicles in April 2019 to 3,551 vehicles this year, a difference of 42,156, according to figures released Tuesday by the Bridge and Tunnel Operators Association.

Including truck traffic, vehicle crossings at the Ogdensburg bridge, the Seaway International Bridge in Massena and the Thousand Islands International Bridge in Alexandria Bay dropped by a total of 248,229 vehicles since last April, or 62.6 percent, going from 396,529 crossings in April 2019 to 148,300 this year.

The closure of the border for nonessential travel was initially set to expire April 30, but that was subsequently extended to today. On Tuesday, the two countries announced that the closure will now last for at least another 30 days, or through June 21.

Passenger vehicle traffic across the three spans dropped 67.4 percent year-over-year, declining from 351,961 crossings in April 2019 to 114,695 this past April, a difference of 237,266 vehicles.

The three bridges fared relatively better with truck traffic, much of which was allowed to continue to facilitate the crossing of goods deemed essential, experiencing an overall drop of about 25 percent in truck traffic. The number of truck crossings this April totaled 33,605, a decline of 10,963 trucks from 44,568 in April a year ago.

In addition to a 92 percent reduction in passenger vehicle traffic, the Ogdensburg bridge saw a 28.6 percent drop in truck traffic, going from 6,886 last April to 4,918 this year. Overall, bridge traffic dropped 83.9 percent.

The Thousand Islands bridge saw a 75.9 percent decline in passenger vehicle traffic, from 117,103 in April 2019 to 28,2017 in April 2020, a drop of 88,896 vehicles. Truck traffic dropped 23.3 percent, from 32,680 vehicles last year to 25,051 this year, a reduction of 7,629 vehicles. Traffic over the bridge declined overall by 64.4 percent.

The Seaway bridge experienced a 56.1 percent, or 106,214 vehicle, decline in passenger vehicle crossings, going from 189,151 in April 2019 to 82,937 in April 2020. There were 1,348, or 27.1 percent, fewer truck crossings, from 4,983 in April 2019 to 3,635 this year. Overall, the bridge saw 55.4 percent fewer crossings this April.

The loss in revenue, which is realized through tolls, likely totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the three bridges in April. For example, the Thousand Islands bridge collected $851,366 in tolls in April 2019.

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