OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority’s executive director is applauding the U.S. vaccine mandate for foreign travelers. However, he says Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge traffic and Ogdensburg International Airport enplanements may never return to pre-pandemic levels.
“Once the vaccine mandate came in, and the border closed, traffic was only 15% of what a normal year would have been,” said Steven J. Lawrence, OBPA’s executive director. “As they’ve opened up the border ... it’s come back to 80%, give or take, what it was pre-COVID.
“This will free up more travel for both Americans and Canadians for discretionary travel, day trips, things like that.”
The Canadian government ended its vaccine mandate for foreign travelers last year.
“Having the vaccine mandate, some people would not come over because of that,” Mr. Lawrence said.
According to February’s Ogdensburg-Prescott bridge traffic report, auto crossings totaled 28,164, down 21.5% from 2019. All other crossings, which includes freight trucks, tallied 5,074 for February 2023, down 10.3% from February 2019. Total crossings for February 2023 numbered 33,238. That’s down 20% from 41,526 in 2019. Bridge revenue for February came in at $82,600, which is down from $106,063 from the same month in 2019.
According to figures provided by Mr. Lawrence, the bridge has taken in $4.11 million in revenue from March 2020 through April of this year. The 2019 revenue total was $2.1 million. For December to March of 2020, the revenue total was $1.34 million. For all of 2021, the total was $1.63 million and $1.01 million for 2022. From January to April of this year, the bridge revenue is about $130,000.
Mr. Lawrence said the impact at Ogdensburg International Airport was even worse than the bridge, which still collected revenue from essential goods carriers during the lockdown period of 2020.
“We were on track the first two months of 2020 to have a really remarkable year and it just dropped because of the closures,” the executive director said.
A longtime OBPA employee, Mr. Lawrence said this isn’t the first time he’s seen a massive drop in bridge traffic and airport enplanements. It also happened right after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Heightened security led to a reduction in crossings that never rebounded to pre-9/11 numbers,” he said. “Overall, we don’t see [bridge and airport numbers] getting back to a normal year, or pre-COVID, for at least a couple of years … we don’t anticipate it to come back to pre-COVID for, I would say, a year or two.”
“We’re hoping things stay steady and rebound, for both the bridge and the airport. They’re interrelated,” Mr. Lawrence added.
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