Surface Border Wait Times

Surface Border Wait Times

While there are over 75 land ports along the U.S.-Canadian border and over 25 along the U.S.-Mexican border, freight traffic crossings are heavily concentrated at a few major gateways. Commercial trucks crossing into the United States at the busiest gateways-Detroit, Michigan, and Laredo, Texas-generate heavy north-south truck traffic from Detroit through to Memphis, Tennessee, and from Laredo through to San Antonio, Texas. This concentration affects traffic and congestion at the border as well as the growth of major transportation corridors [1].

The average wait time in 2004 for commercial vehicles entering the United States from Canada was 8.5 minutes and 7.3 minutes for those entering from Mexico1 (figure 5-3 and figure 5-4). There was, however, wide variation in the 2004 wait times for commercial traffic at individual surface gateways. The average wait time at Texas' Laredo World Trade Bridge, a gateway dedicated exclusively to commercial traffic, was the longest (21 minutes) on the Mexican border, while Michigan's Port Huron Bluewater Bridge had the longest average wait time (25 minutes) on the Canadian border.

In contrast to the flow of freight traffic, surface border personal vehicle2 wait times are twice as long at U.S.-Mexican borders than at U.S.-Canadian borders. Mexican border crossings averaged about 14.5 minutes of delay in 2003 and 2004, and Canadian border crossings averaged 8 minutes of delay in 2003 and 6 minutes of delay in 2004 (figure 5-5). Passenger mode of choice also differed between those entering from Canada and Mexico . Personal vehicle was the most popular mode in which to cross the U.S. border in 2004 from Canada (64.8 million passengers) and Mexico (190.9 million passengers). However, over 48 million pedestrians entered from Mexico in 2004, making walking the second-most common way to enter the United States through Mexico gateways3 [2].


1. U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, America's Freight Gateways, available at, as of April 2005.

2. U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, using data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Data Warehouse CD-ROM, May 2005.

1 Wait times for commercial vehicles (e.g., tractors pulling containers or beds, panel trucks, and pickup trucks and vans used for hauling commercial cargo) are recorded hourly for 16 surface border ports on the U.S.-Canadian border and for 17 surface border ports on the U.S.-Mexican border.

2 Customs and Border Protection uses the term "private vehicles" and defines it as any vehicle of pickup truck size or smaller used for noncommercial purposes. This includes cars, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and vans.

3 See "Passenger Border Crossings" in section 1 of this report.