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U.S. General Services Administration presentation, May 21, 2024

2 options studied for U.S. customs entrance

By Randy Thoms May 22, 2024 | 2:13 PM

There is still concern about increased traffic on Highway 11 in International Falls with new customs and a hospital to be situated in proximity of each other.

The new U.S. customs is being shifted east of its original site.

That has drawn concerns from the community about traffic being directed east of International Falls instead of going through town.

Project Manager Seth Larocque says they are looking at two options for the entrance which include traffic lights or a roundabout.

Larocque says the roundabout is eyed as the most preferred option because of the benefits it offers.

“We think it does a good job of directing people to the right when they’re exiting the site. And it’d be easier to do some signage and things like that to encourage people to head towards downtown when they’re coming from Canada,” says Larocque.

Rainy Lake Medical Centre is looking at building a new hospital nearby, and it is concerned about the long lines of traffic going into Canada that could impede access.

Chief Operating Officer Brian Rauzi would like further discussion about the traffic challenges that could be faced.

“It’s really a question of life or death. One ambulance carrying one person having a heart attack or stroke that cannot get access to the hospital can die, then that’s all on us,” says Rauzi. “So, we need to work something out that’s going to ensure we all can be successful with our projects.”

Traffic in the area is also to be impacted by trucks used to haul paper from the Packaging Corporation of America mill that will be moving to a new parking lot directly across from the customs site. 

Rauzi would like a focus group working on the traffic challenges.

Laroque says the Minnesota Department of Transportation also needs to be at the table.

“I think that discussion really needs to be led by MnDOT because there are impacts beyond our project,” says Laroque.

“There’s a lot of safety factors that are being considered as we’re laying this out. . but we’re trying to make a decision on what would be best for the long-term use in the community. So, there’ll be continued conversations with MnDOT, with Rainy Lake Medical Center, with PCA, the city and county, as we further on these discussions about what’s best for this intersection long term.”

The design work for the new customs building is underway and should be done later this year.

Construction is slated to begin next year.