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Wednesday’s deadly vehicle explosion at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing between Canada and the U.S. likely won’t have a significant impact on the Niagara Falls economy, the city’s mayor says, despite earlier fears of a prolonged shutdown.
“There were some people impacted, but it could have been so much worse if this had dragged on for several days or longer,” Mayor Jim Diodati told BNNBloomberg.ca in a phone interview on Thursday.
Following initial reports late Wednesday morning that the incident could be linked to terrorism, all four bridges in the region linking Canada to the U.S. were closed as a precaution. All but the Rainbow Bridge had reopened by Wednesday evening.
“Luckily, because it was reasonably brief, and we were able to open up the other three bridges, they were able to alleviate the pressure that was building up,” Diodati said.
He said the Rainbow Bridge is also expected to reopen at some point Thursday, allowing cross-border traffic to flow as normal on Black Friday, when many Canadian shoppers head into the U.S. to take advantage of holiday sales.
He noted that the closures did impact trade between the U.S. and Canada, but the disruption was brief enough that it “won’t be substantive.”
“Billions of dollars a day cross our four border crossings – more than 10 million vehicles, and two million trucks. The good news is all the trucks that were held up are being able to get processed and go along the bridge,” Diodati said.
“Overall, it'll be a superficial wound. It's not going to be anything that cut too deep.”
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The border closures came during one of the busiest annual travel weeks in the U.S., and the day before American Thanksgiving, causing chaos for travellers on both the Ontario and New York sides of the border.
“It's the biggest holiday in the U.S.; it's bigger than it is in Canada and it's also their busiest retail time,” Diodati said, adding that many Canadians opt to fly out of nearby U.S. airports at this time of year.
“It's closer and much more convenient than flying out of (Toronto Pearson International Airport), so all of these people were panicking because there's no other way to get there.”
Janice Thomson, president and CEO of Niagara Falls Tourism, said that despite the Rainbow Bridge closure, most travellers were able to use the other three bridge crossings instead, minimizing delays.
“We are fortunate enough to have four border crossings within a half hour of Niagara Falls, so a closure of one of them doesn’t stop visitors and travellers from reaching their destination,” Thomson said in an emailed statement.
“I would like to commend the response team on the U.S. side of the border that worked in conjunction with authorities in Canada to open the other border crossings as quickly as they did to minimize the disruption.”