USDOT Region V Regional University Transportation Center

US Canada Border Conference Save Date


On November 16, 2009, the NEXTRANS Center, with the assistance of the Government of Canada/avec l'appui du gouvernement du Canada and Access Technology Across Indiana, hosted a conference at Purdue University titled, "In Step, In Line, On Time: Regional Strategies for Trade, Security, and Mobility Challenges at the U.S. - Canada Border." This conference provided a unique opportunity for guests from the U.S. and Canadian diplomatic missions, Transport Canada, and U.S. Department of Transportation to engage in dialogue with private-sector stakeholders and researchers.

Canada Canada Canada

View Conference Photos

View Conference Agenda

View Speaker Biographies

The conference began with opening remarks from Srinivas Peeta (Director, NEXTRANS); David Franklin (U.S.-Canadian Border Coordinator, Federal Highway Administration); Daniel McGregor (Senior Policy Advisor, Transport Canada); and Jeffrey Bolin (Associate Vice President for Research, Purdue University). These remarks were followed by the "Trade and Security" session, which aimed to address major challenges and opportunities to achieve a balance between trade goals and security needs from the perspectives of the U.S. and Canadian Governments. These perspectives were provided by Robert Noble (Canadian Consul General, Detroit); Kevin Johnson (U.S. Consul General, Toronto); Paul Haddow (Director General of Strategic Policy and Governance, Canada Border Services Agency); and Christopher Perry (Director of Detroit Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection).

The general consensus of this session was that trade and security are not opposed to one another. While significant improvements have been made on both sides of the border, increased collaboration and investment is necessary to upgrade infrastructure and modernize facilities. A number of advanced technologies and joint initiatives such as FAST (Free and Secure Trade) were also cited as means to enhance border security while subjecting legitimate traders to fewer delays. Funding, however, presents an additional challenge, since both nations are experiencing an economic downturn and facing elevated federal deficits.

Robert Noble stressed the current need for pragmatism in the name of economic efficiency, and that governments need to promote, not restrict, trade. Kevin Johnson (U.S. Consul General, Toronto) reminded attendees that trade and security are not a "zero sum game." Paul Haddow emphasized that meeting U.S. security needs would make trade facilitation more feasible, and Christopher Perry noted that individuals regarded by the U.S. as threats to national security have been successfully intercepted at the border.

This session was followed by a networking break featuring exhibitor booths. Presenters included the Michigan Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, The Ohio State University, NEXTRANS, Purdue Center for Visual Analytics for Command, Control and Interoperability Environments (VACCINE), and Access Technology Across Indiana (ATAIN).

During the "Gateways and Corridors" session, participants discussed regional strategies for developing major gateways and corridors with collaborations between transportation stakeholders. Hugh Conroy (Project Manager, Whatcom Council of Governments) stressed the need for more bi-lateral initiatives at the national and state/provincial level. Monica Blaney (Senior Policy Advisor, Freight Integration and Motor Carrier Policy, Transport Canada) pointed to the need for deeper integration with the U.S. across elements such as infrastructure, regulation, governance, processes, labor, etc. She described Canada's three gateway and trade corridor strategies, which reflect a move toward system and merit-based funding and partnerships between governments and business.

Robert Tally (Division Administrator, FHWA - Indiana) delivered a presentation on the I-69 Corridor project, demonstrating the worth of a 1600-mile national highway connecting Canada to Mexico. Mohammed Alghurabi (Senior Project Manager, Michigan Department of Transportation) and others stressed the economic and security importance of the Detroit River International Crossing Project. The session was moderated by Professor Kumares Sinha (Director, Joint Transportation Research Program, Purdue University).

Gregory Nadeau (Deputy Administrator, Federal Highway Administration) delivered the keynote address during the Luncheon program. Nadeau's speech touched upon a number of topics, including the Highway Trust Fund, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and current FHWA-funded projects. He discussed how border needs have changed over the years in response to terrorist attacks and economic globalization, and emphasized that Canada and the U.S. must continue to collaborate on innovative border initiatives. Nadeau's remarks were followed by a lively question and answer session, during which he responded to impromptu audience questions. Srinivas Peeta; Robert Tally; and Joseph Gustin (Deputy Commissioner, Planning and Operations, Indiana Department of Transportation) also spoke during the Luncheon program.

Lunch was followed by a session titled "Industry Wants and Agency Needs," which aimed to address border challenges from the perspectives of manufacturers. Birgit Matthiesen (Special Advisor to the President, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters) directed attention away from frontline border agencies toward a wide range of other government departments, which she believes have done as much to "thicken the border" through fees, inspections and reporting requirements away from the border as agencies have at the border itself.

Stephen Russell (Member, Executive Committee, American Trucking Association) suggested trade efficiency and security can be improved by jointly managing risk; increasing security awareness for exporters, importers, and carriers; and improving cooperation and communication between carriers and government agencies. David Bradley (CEO, Canadian Trucking Alliance) echoed the need for better risk assessment, and suggested other solutions such as eliminating redundancy, reciprocal recognition of each other's programs, halting fee increases, and harmonizing weights and measures.

A panel discussion followed, which was moderated by Sarah Hubbard (Senior Vice President, Detroit Regional Chamber), and included Christopher Perry (Director of Detroit Field Operations, Customs and Border Protection); Gary Ragatz (WHTI Program Manager, Construction Programs, General Services Administration); and Paul Haddow (Director General of Strategic Policy and Governance, Canada Border Services Agency).

Academia's role in providing data and analysis for improving border efficiency was discussed during the "Border Performance, Governance and Research" session. Kathryn Friedman (Deputy Director, University of Buffalo Regional Institute); Mark McCord (Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, The Ohio State University); Clarence Woudsma (Director, School of Planning, University of Waterloo); and John Taylor (Director, Supply Chain Management Programs, Wayne State University) participated in this session, which was moderated by William Anderson (Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Windsor).

The general consensus was that academia can provide valuable cost-benefit analysis and performance evaluation, which could help agencies make more informed decisions and garner support from stakeholders. There are, however, a number of challenges, such as poor data accessibility, lack of funding, and limited interface between academia and government on border issues.

The conference closed with a "Wrap-up" session, which was moderated by Ray Benekohal (Co-Director, NEXTRANS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and featured David Davidson as Rapporteur (Program Director, Border Policy Research Institute, Western Washington University). They joined David Franklin, Daniel McGregor, Sarah Hubbard, and William Anderson to summarize some of the conference's key points:

  • Trade and security are not inherently opposed. "Getting security right" should help promote trade and mobility across the border.
  • Possible solutions to border challenges include better risk assessment, pruning redundancies, harmonizing standards, developing better bi-national policy linkages, and fostering stronger state/province involvement.
  • Infrastructure funding will continue to present a challenge. High federal deficits mean that future decisions may have to be made in the context of fiscal restraint.
  • Trusted traveler and shipper programs such as NEXUS and FAST may represent one of the most important tools for reducing delays and uncertainty at the border; however, improving participation in these programs may require infrastructure investment (extending dedicated FAST lanes) or government subsidies.
  • The decrease in trade as a result of the recession may be masking previous border issues that will recur as the economy and Canada-U.S. trade recover. One looming question is how cross-border automotive shipments will recover as the industry comes out of its current crisis.
  • Academia should strive to provide "knowledge for action," which can help policy makers make well-informed decisions. At the same time, researchers should exercise their freedom to be visionary, without worrying about the "bottom line."

The NEXTRANS Center would like to thank everyone who helped to make this conference an engaging dialogue between stakeholders within and beyond the Great Lakes Region. The Center would especially like to thank the conference steering committee, which was co-chaired by David Franklin, Daniel McGregor and Mahmud Farooque.

Conference Presentations (Click name below)





Canadian Consul General, Detroit
Trade and Security
Project Manager, Whatcom Council of Governments
Gateways and Corridors
Division Administrator, FHWA-Indiana Gateways and Corridors
Special Advisor to the President, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters
Industry Wants and Agency Needs
Executive Committee Member, American Trucking Association
Industry Wants and Agency Needs
Deputy Director, Univ. of Buffalo Regional Institute
Border Performance, Governance, Research
Professor, The Ohio State University
Border Performance, Governance, Research
Program Director, Border Policy Research Institute, Western Washington University
Rapporteur's Summary



Current Events

No current events were found.

University Partners