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Long delays reported at U.S.-Canada border

By Peter Dykstra
CNN Detroit Bureau

DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) -- Motorists entering the United States from Canada waited up to 15 hours before reaching checkpoints Thursday, as intensified security measures prompted by Tuesday's terrorist attacks translated into long delays.

The wait for trucks trying to enter the United States at the Ambassador Bridge -- which connects Windsor, Ontario, with Detroit -- was 12 to 15 hours, according to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

Intensive scrutiny by the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service backed traffic up 20 miles on Ontario Highway 401 approaching Detroit on Wednesday and Thursday.

Ontario's transportation office urged Canadian motorists to postpone travel to the United States.

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Bridges in the Buffalo, New York, and Niagara Falls area were also heavily congested Thursday. Estimates at the Peace Bridge -- which crosses the Niagara River and connects Buffalo and Canada -- ranged up to 15 hours, according to the Ontario advisory.

The wait was five hours for trucks and 90 minutes for passenger cars at the Bluewater Bridge, which links Sarnia, Ontario, and Port Huron, Michigan, according to Canada Customs spokesman Danny Yen.

Not all U.S.-Canada border checkpoints reported long delays. Waits tended to be much shorter at checkpoints that do not allow large trucks, such the Windsor Tunnel near the Ambassador Bridge.

The crossing from Sarnia, Ontario, to Port Huron, Michigan reported a backup of just over a mile Thursday morning. Other crossings in more rural areas reported little or no backups.

U.S. Customs Service spokesman Jim Michie said the agency had no data on the delay times at various crossings.

He said the Alert Level 1 status -- put in effect after Tuesday's attacks on New York and Washington -- would mean "sustained, intensive anti-terrorist measures" with "more intensive inspection of both passengers and vehicles" entering the United States.

Wait times varied along the Mexican border, although no reports approached the delays near Buffalo and Detroit. The El Paso (Texas) Times said waits to enter the United States on Wednesday were two hours -- double the usual time.

In addition, all four bridges from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso were closed for a time Wednesday night due to a bomb threat. Similar threats closed the border crossings in Laredo, Texas.

There were no reports of unusual delays for vehicles going from the United States to Canada or to Mexico.

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