International Travel to the U.S. Resumes
Starting Nov. 8 fully vaccinated foreign travelers were permitted to enter the U.S. after 20 months.
International tourism returned to the U.S. on November 8 for fully vaccinated individuals. The return ends an unprecedented 20 months of border closures and was eagerly welcomed by businesses, and families and friends who had been apart.
While many New Yorkers spent the past year enjoying less crowded sidewalks and easier access to their favorite venues, the return of tourists provides a much needed lifeline to the city. As Broadway restarts, tourists make up 70 percent of ticket buyers and are a pivotal part of a show’s success.
This week we look at international travel returning to the U.S. and, in particular, the dramatic affect the border closure had on crossings from Canada. But as the interesting read notes, Nov. 8 isn’t the end as thousands of European non-immigrant visa holders and unvaccinated individuals continue to be stuck in limbo.
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What People Are Saying
CHART OF THE WEEK
Border crossings dropped dramatically in March 2020 and have not recovered. While truck traffic continued for the exchange of goods and commerce, automobile traffic was limited to only essential travel and came to a near halt.
The story at the Peace Bridge (Buffalo, NY to Ontario, Canada) is the same at intranational crossings across the country. From 2019 to 2020, automobile traffic to the U.S. declined 79%.
Why this Matters:
Bridges rely on toll revenue to pay for maintenance and operations.
In July 2020, the toll industry’s losses were estimated to exceed $9 billion nationwide, prompting public and private toll operators to tap their reserves, delay capital projects and cut jobs.
While there was increased driving over the past 20 months, large segments of the population did not travel far from home. According to the IBTTA, “by early August, weekly transactions on toll roads recovered to approximately 1.3 million or nearly 70 percent of pre-COVID transactions.” However, international crossings, like the Peace Bridge had no such recovery.
What Comes Next:
The lack of toll revenues lead many agencies to adjust operations and delay capital projects. However, some toll operators went ahead with planned fare increases.
In December 2020, Federal COVID relief legislation provided state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) with $10 billion in funding that could be made available to toll roads and facilities.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will invest $110 billion of new funds for roads, bridges, and major projects, and reauthorize the surface transportation program for the next five years. The bill includes a total of $40 billion of new funding for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation and around $16 billion for major projects that are too large or complex for traditional funding programs but will deliver significant economic benefits to communities.
Travel is resuming, but not for everyone Brookings
The Issue: Despite the official “reopening” thousands of European non-immigrant visa holders continue to be stuck in limbo, ensnared in a visa issuance system gone awry.
Instead of considering the matter settled, Americans and Europeans should realize that human mobility is a freedom worth defending. Together with other advanced economies, they should, more than ever, strive to restore a safe and equitable way for all to travel in this COVID-19 era and beyond.
Any opinions expressed herein are those of the author and the author alone.