Point Roberts residents gain new free ferry service to United States mainland

Aug 26 2020, 7:21 pm

Residents of Point Roberts immediately southwest of Metro Vancouver have a new direct way of accessing Washington State, without having to cross the Canada-United States border.

A new free weekly ferry service launched this week to assist residents with accessing critical goods and services on the mainland of the state.

Typically, residents cross the border into Canada and travel through the Tsawwassen peninsula to reach the state’s mainland, but the border has been closed to all non-essential travel since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Due to its isolated location, as a pene-exclave, individuals entering Canada from Point Roberts in the US are legally required to follow the policy of quarantining for 14 days.

After months of travel restrictions, the ferry service is deemed as a short-term, emergency transportation service, operating once per week on Tuesdays.

The Port of Bellingham and Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) have commissioned San Juan Cruises to operate the service using their 50-ft Salish Sea and 100-ft Salish Express vessels.

As capacity is limited, residents must register online on a first come, first served basis. WTA will also provide a public transit bus connection from Blaine Harbor to Cordata Station in Bellingham, but passengers must make a separate reservation in advance.

Passengers are required to wear face masks on both ferry and WTA connections.

The service could be increased to up to two sailings per week, if there is high demand.

Other options to travel between Point Roberts and the US mainland are by private boat or small plane.

“Due to its unique location, Whatcom County residents living in Point Roberts have been disproportionately impacted by US-Canada border restrictions,” reads a release.

US officials add they have been working with their Canadian counterparts on a border exemption, which would address the “unique challenges” of American residents in Point Roberts.

Earlier this month, the border closure was extended to September 21, and it is expected to be renewed again.

Approximately 1,300 people reside in Point Roberts, which has a land mass of about 13 sq km2 — roughly the same size as New Westminster.

While Point Roberts has an elementary school for Kindergarten to Grade 3, students in middle and high school must take a 40-minute school bus ride through Canada and cross the border into Blaine to reach their school on the mainland.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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