I am planning a jaunt from NYC to Montreal in about a month’s time, and I’m concerned that I’m not budgeting enough time for the border crossings. I would appreciate it if any Dopers who’ve done the crossing recently with first-hand data would correct my impressions below, and/or give any tips for a smoother trip.
My current itinerary takes me north through VT, crossing at Highgate Springs/St. Armand (VT 89/QC 133), and returning south through NY at the Champlain/Lacolle crossing (Autoroute 15/US I-87). My northbound crossing would be around 5:00-5:30pm on a Tuesday afternoon (7/31), and the southbound one the next day around noon (8/1).
My main concern is with the speed of crossing. I’ve budgeted about 20-30 minutes to cross in each direction, but all these warnings of congestion and long waits have me concerned. Then again as a New Yorker unfortunately well accustomed to traffic congestion at everyday crossings like bridges and tunnels, maybe the writers considered 30 minutes an unusually long time while to me it’d be par for the course.
My main time concern is with the northbound crossing, as I’ll be trying to make a dinner reservation in Montreal. If I get stuck for much longer than expected returning south, I’ll just get home later or slower. I’ve budgeted 30 minutes for a border crossing and 45 minutes for Montreal area traffic beyond what Google Maps gives me as a time estimate, which would get me to my hotel room 30 minutes before my planned meal time which is about a 10 minute walk away (plus time to check in and dump my stuff off in the room, I suppose). Raisonnable?
Since 2009: “Lots” of Paperwork / ID Checking Delays, or Not Really?
I’ve been to Canada many times, but not since 2004, and I’ve heard/read that the crossings have become much more scrutinized. In the back of my mind I sort of assumed the years immediately post-9/11 would have had the biggest “lockdown” effect, but apparently it took a bunch more years to kick in (2009). I used to cross over showing my NY State Driver’s License both ways, but now I understand I now need either a US Passport, an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), or a NEXUS card.
I have a valid US passport, so I have no sudden need to get additional paperwork for my trip. But I’m concerned about underestimating the traffic congestion at the border crossings. Both are described as among the busiest along the border. I’ve crossed at the Autoroute 10/I-87 crossing lots of times before and have no memory of a frustratingly long line - mentally I’m picturing about a 15-30 minute processing time - but again, that was between 1990 and 2004 and typically at night or on a weekend, not post-2009 and on a weekday at midday or during what might be rush hour.
NYS Enhanced Driver’s License: Not Any Faster?
In looking up whether or not it’d be worth it to get an EDL I found that the NEXUS program is kind of a personal EZ-Pass through the border checkpoints (via dedicated processing lanes), as it has a RFID chip and pre-screening and pre-clearance of a certified low-risk person. But the process of getting one involves 2 separate interviews with both the US and Canada and takes about 6-8 weeks total time to get, which I don’t have, so that’s off the board.
Meanwhile the EDL mainly serves as a way to avoid having to bring one’s passport, so there doesn’t seem to be any real point in me scrambling to get one now for expediency’s sake. There is an RFID chip in the EDL, but as far as I can tell it’s to speed up the agent’s paperwork checking, saving you about 15 seconds on average. You still get on the same line as the non-NEXUS folks. There is something called a “Ready Lane” for faster processing of RFID enabled document bearers, including an EDL, but apparently not at these two crossings (only at two in Buffalo, NY, one in Detroit, MI and one Blaine, WA).
So I’m not gonna bother, unless someone tells me why I should.
Impact of Vacances de la Construction (“Construction Holidays”)?
Finally, a border crossing traffic alert calendar tells me that the 2+ week period of 7/22 through 8/4 are the “Construction Holidays” in PQ which is the busiest vacation time for Quebecois. I won’t be crossing the border on a weekend, so I’m hoping that it being a peak holiday period might mean the midday commercial traffic will actually be REDUCED (just as even Manhattan traffic in NYC is noticeably freer for a few days leading up to a holiday long weekend). But border jaunts are surely a popular day trip activity for Quebecois too, so maybe I’ll get grief instead of relief.
I’ve only ever visited Montreal in the wintertime so I’d never heard of this holiday. Does it make for worse traffic in general, either at the borders or within Montreal or PQ Autoroutes?