VAN BUREN, Maine — It’s not scheduled to open for at least another year, but the new Van Buren Port of Entry already has earned recognition for its design and environmentally friendly innovations.
Construction on the roadway leading to and from the $45 million facility, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will close the Van Buren crossing into St. Leonard, New Brunswick, from Oct. 2-5.
For those three days all passenger, commercial and pedestrian traffic can use alternate ports of entry, according to a release from Michelle Benson-Fuller of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s office of public affairs. The nearest port is in Hamiln, about 10 miles south of Van Buren which will operate 24-hours a day during that time.
The old facility, built in 1965, sustained severe damage when the St. John River rose to record flood levels in 2008, Benson-Fuller said.
“The outdated and damaged facility posed health and safety concerns for both the CBP officers and the public, and could not support CBP’s mission,” she said. “The Van Buren [port] lacked potable water, a noncommercial inspection booth, facilities for noncommercial secondary inspections and facilities for interview and detention.”
Operations currently take place in a doublewide mobile trailer, which Benson-Fuller said is a step up from the tent, mobile units and singlewide trailer brought in immediately after the flood.
The new facility will bring major improvements, including canopies for inspecting arriving vehicles, indoor space for commercial cargo inspection, perimeter fencing, lighting, gates and other security measures.
Fifty 400-foot-deep geothermal wells will provide the majority of the building’s heating and cooling needs in addition to a rooftop solar hot water system that will heat water for the sinks and showers in the facility.
Special solar tubes will light interior spaces that don’t have windows, reducing the need for electric lights.
Thick concrete walls and insulation make the new facility energy efficient and special silk screen window coverings with forest designs let ambient light in while controlling glare.
In all, according to information provided by the United States General Services Administration, which owns the new building, these measures will mean a 48 percent reduction in energy costs for the port.
The concept was recognized with a 2010 GSA Design award and given a bronze award from the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction in 2011.
“There is really an amazing group of people at the Van Buren port,” Benson-Fuller said. “They know they have a job to do and they did what they could to keep traffic flowing and make sure the public was safe and able to cross the border.”
The new 44,000-square-foot facility will occupy a space between Bridge Street and the intersection of routes 1 and 1A.
“CBP thanks the traveling public for their patience during this process and has taken steps to ensure that appropriate staff levels will be in place at the alternate ports to process the increase in traffic as expeditiously as possible,” Benson-Fuller said.
The Van Buren port of entry is expected to resume operations at 6 a.m. on Oct. 5.