Use a bi-national stakeholder forum to help apply ITS technology at an international border crossing.
A public-private partnership experience in deploying a bi-national electronic truck border crossing system at the Washington /British Columbia border.
Made Public Date


United States


British Columbia

Washington State-British Columbia: International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC)


The International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Commercial Vehicle Operation (CVO) – Border Crossing Deployment Project was undertaken in 1997 by the Washington State Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and Transport Canada. The goal of the bi-national, multiyear border freight ITS deployment program was to deploy ITS technologies to improve border crossing operations between Washington, USA and British Columbia, Canada.

This deployment provided an opportunity to examine the feasibility of integrating Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI), Weigh-In-Motion (WIM), and electronic container seals with the U.S. Customs Service’s Automated Manifest System (AMS). The integrated system was designed to coordinate shipper, motor carrier, and international governmental agency operations and processes seamlessly through a single internet-based information system. Upon completion of the physical infrastructure (i.e., additional lanes and revamped customs booth areas), the coordinated processes and technologies were expected to relieve some of the congestion at border crossing facilities, improve the efficiency of enforcement agencies, and reduce the delay that trucks encounter as they wait to cross the U.S. - Canadian border.

Lessons Learned

The International Mobility and Trade Corridor (IMTC) coalition helped to coordinate and support many elements of this bi-national electronic truck border crossing ITS. The IMTC is a group of over 60 U.S. and Canadian business and government entities whose mission is to identify and pursue improvements to cross-border mobility. It was established by public and private stakeholders in 1997, partially in response to the need to apply technology at the Washington-British Columbia border. A border stakeholder group such as the IMTC provides a forum that greatly eases the application of ITS in the complex, multi-institutional, bi-national border environment.

The evaluation report for the project and input from the project manager suggest the following:

  • Use a stakeholder group to facilitate discussion, gain buy-in, and help reduce complicated institutional issues while applying technology systems at an international border
  • Include in the stakeholder group both public and private organizations that have an interest in border operations. This will include organizations from both sides of the border.
  • Recognize that a border stakeholder group will be most effective at addressing regional and state-level technical issues, as opposed to national level issues. A group such as the IMTC also cannot be expected to greatly affect national-level border policies.
  • Take advantage of the ability of border stakeholder groups such as the IMTC to raise funds for ITS projects. These funds can come from both sides of the border.

As an example of IMTC’s role in this project, the IMTC and project stakeholders successfully addressed concerns related to the freight data privacy of the border ITS system by providing coordination among a range of diverse public and private agencies. The border ITS for trucks needed to provide security for both proprietary and law enforcement information while still being open to the public and private IMTC stakeholders. Project staff, using stakeholder contacts developed within the IMTC framework, resolved this potentially difficult issue by developing a password protected system that allowed users to gain secure access only to the user’s specified, authorized trade corridor information. Only border enforcement agencies and the system administrator have global access to freight information for each company using the system. It is only with the input and approval from all organizations involved in the project that allowed this solution to have been developed.

The IMTC partnership also facilitated open discussions between the customs agencies of the United States and Canada at the Blaine-Surrey international crossing. These discussions, as well as discussions at the national level of both countries, may lead to joint facilities soon being deployed at the border. Co-location of inspection agencies would allow economies of scale, greater coordination of inspection efforts, and direct, on-site communication between U.S. and Canadian customs. This would, in turn, greatly reduce some of the engineering and institutional complications related to the installation of ITS technology at the U.S.-Canadian border.

However, a regionally oriented stakeholder organization such as the IMTC cannot be expected to greatly influence national-level border technology issues. For example, there is a concern about dedicated, short-range communication (DSRC) standards, the primary issue being more uniformity in transponder interoperability to preclude motor carriers from having to equip their vehicles with several transponders. However, transponder standards are a national-level issue, and input from the IMTC is not expected to have a notable impact on this issue.

The IMTC, led by a public agency and responding to local congestion concerns by pursuing national funds to address bi-national transportation issues, provides a model for ways to support the development of ITS freight projects across international borders. This successful model involves interactions with federal, provincial, state, and local governments from two countries to obtain funding and deploy border ITS projects in response to a broad range of border transportation goals that the ITMC has set for the region. Without the IMTC’s support and coordination, this border project would have taken longer and possibly cost more.