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Obama’s budget includes $105 million for Alexandria Bay port of entry upgrades

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WELLESLEY ISLAND — A major upgrade to the U.S. border station is closer to reality after a dozen years of planning, with $105 million for the project included in President Barack Obama’s budget proposal released Tuesday.

The money would cover the first phase of work, including renovations to commercial and passenger vehicle inspection lanes, a commercial inspection warehouse, an impound lot and a new veterinary services building. Two parcels of land also will be purchased.

“This project is important both for enhancing security at our nation’s borders and for supporting the New York/Canada commercial corridors,” said Denise L. Pease, regional administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration. “Whenever we make improvements that can facilitate transportation and operations at border crossings like the one at Alexandria Bay, we are also encouraging economic growth and job creation on both sides of the border.”

Work would be done in stages to minimize traffic disruption at the border, which is open 24 hours a day and clears hundreds of thousands of vehicles and 1.5 million passengers a year.

A second phase of the work, not covered in the funding announced Tuesday, would include a new outbound inspection facility, noncommercial secondary inspection plaza and non-intrusive inspection building, along with renovations to the main administration building. That phase is estimated to cost about $100.5 million.

Robert G. Horr III, executive director of the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, said the plans have been developing for about 12 years.

“It’s a big win for the region,” he said.

Gary S. DeYoung, executive director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, said traffic backups have frustrated travelers.

“Rebuilding the port will address a lot of those issues so we don’t have them in the future,” he said.

Plans for expansion took a major step in 2007 when the Bush administration allocated $11.7 million for land acquisition and design. Parts of the design have been in place since 2010.

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the project could help develop business in the area.

“Upgrading the Alexandria Bay port of entry can help attract new business to the north country, connect our small businesses to new markets, and help support new jobs, all while strengthening security,” she said.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, in a statement, called the port of entry a “vital piece of infrastructure that has been long overdue for an upgrade.”

He said that in 2012, the port of entry saw 103,000 truck containers and 675,000 personal vehicles with a total of nearly 1.5 million passengers.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement, said the project would help tourism and economic development.

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Jaegun Lee contributed to this story.

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