BLAINE - With the 2010 Olympics scheduled to start in one year in Vancouver, B.C., federal officials are sticking by their earlier promise to have 10 inspection booths open at the Peace Arch in time for a possible increase in traffic - even though the massive $72 million upgrade of the county's biggest border crossing won't be complete by then.
With no assurances that the added capacity will be in place before January 2010, some fear that border bottlenecks will do more harm to an already ailing Whatcom County economy during the coming spring and summer.
"Our concern is not the Olympics," said Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "The issue's going to be this summer."
Construction-related constraints at the border during the winter likely made a bad economic situation worse over the Christmas shopping season, Oplinger said, deterring Canadian shoppers already inhibited by a declining currency and the same financial fears that face their U.S. neighbors.
Blaine City Manager Gary Tomsic agreed.
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