We started our Vancouver trip with a meeting at the Whatcom COG to talk to Hugh Conroy and Melissa Miller about their work there and for the IMTC. We couldn't have picked a better way to start. Many of us have met Hugh and Melissa before when we've attended IMTC meetings or as they've helped us with various research projects. They are both incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and hard-working - excellent qualities for study tour guides.
During our visit they gave us an overview of their region, how the Cascade Gateways (Washington-BC border crossings) work, and what some of the current challenges and strategies are. We also learned how the role of the Whatcom COG has evolved over time starting as an agency whose primary job was to bless federal transportation projects in the region into one that does that as well as run the commute trip reduction program, act as the lead agency in the cross border agency coalition, and work to manage the broader regional transportation system. Some of their efforts help the Cascade Gateway region, which includes Whatcom County, function as a binational economic region.
They explained to us some of the many ways the border complicates even mundane issues. The legal authority of localities and regions is different in the two countries, adding the border adds a significant number of stakeholders to every decision, and even when projects are coordinated funding on both sides can be difficult. For example, the CBP (US Customs and Border Protection) facilities are in the US but the roadways leading to those facilities are in Canada, so any effort to improve capacity to the CBP infrastructure relies on similar efforts to improve the approaching roadways (and the same is true for US roadways leading to CBSA facilities). Who should pay to make the roadway improvements? The country who controls the roadways or the country whose facilities are served by the roadways?
Hugh and Melissa provided an excellent knowledge base for us to launch from, as well as a friendly welcome.