HIGHGATE, Vt. (AP) – New rules? No problem.

The vast majority of travelers entering Vermont from Quebec early Thursday had the documents they needed, making for smooth sailing as new border entry requirements took effect. There were no visible backups at the Highgate Springs port of entry, at the top of Interstate 89.

A Montreal couple, headed to Boston, had their Canadian passports and a birth certificate for their six-month-old baby boy strapped in to the back seat of their car.

“We knew we needed the passports and all that regulation, which is OK, I find that no problem at all,” said Roger Roy.

Roy said he always traveled to the United States with his passport.

“I just find it more safe. I have no problem with that at all.”

Business leaders and elected officials in Vermont and other border states have worried that the new rules would discourage Canadians from crossing the border to shop, ski or visit.

Under the new rules, people will no longer be allowed simply to declare to immigration officers at border crossings that they are citizens, said Jayson Ahern, deputy commissioner with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Instead, those 19 and older will have to show proof of citizenship – a passport, trusted traveler card or a birth certificate and government-issued ID such as a driver’s license.

Highgate Port Director James McMillan said it was a normal day and that travelers were ready for the new documentation requirements.

“Probably between 95 and 98 percent of the people are carrying all the documentation that they need at this point and the couple of people that aren’t, we’re handing them the same tearsheet,” said McMillan.

He said there had been no problems of any kind.

“Everything has been running really smooth. Traffic has been flowing, probably the most we’ve seen is three or four cars backed up at any given time. So you’re taking maybe two or three minutes wait time.”

Curt Healey, 30, a Canadian-born chiropractor from Barre, went to Montreal on Thursday to pick up his Canadian passport so he wouldn’t have any troubles crossing the border.

“I have mixed feelings,” Healy said of the new rules. “They’re for security purposes. You shouldn’t have a problem if you have all your ID. It doesn’t affect me, really.”

It took Connecticut businessman Randy Lewis less than a minute to cross the border. He was carrying a passport, but hadn’t realized Thursday was the day it became a requirement.

“I’ve been carrying it for a couple of years. I don’t see any difference. It was less than a minute to go through,” Lewis said.

In Maine, it was a similar story.

In Calais, Maine, where the wait can reach 90 minutes in the summer, City Manager Diane Barnes said she was worried about the potential for even greater delays as motorists have to search out two forms of identification.

“Some areas are going to be affected more than others. This is a very busy border crossing,” Barnes said Thursday.

But problems didn’t surface Thursday.

Pat Kelley said there was no delay when she crossed the border between Calais and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, to get to her job at Hardwick Country Store.

“It was fine. It wasn’t any different than any other day,” said Kelley, who said it took her less than 15 minutes to cross the border.

In Jackman, Maine, things were running smoothly, as well. “This is a slow time of the year, so this is a good thing for us,” said Port Director Francis Lacasse.

Customs and Border Protection spokesman Ted Woo said things were moving smoothly at the Pittsburg, N.H., port as well.

“Most people seem to have their passports. There are no delays, no problems,” Woo said.

Still, businesses near the border are worried the new rules – and the costs of getting a passport – will keep customers away.

“We are right on the border and 50 percent of our guests are Canadian, so it’s an enormous part of our business,” said Bill Stenger, president of Jay Peak ski resort, in Jay, Vt.

“I think the concern that most of the business community has from Washington state to the state of Maine is that the preparedness for this was not thorough, that thought was not given to the economic impact before implementation and that cost effective alternatives were not in place,” he said.

AP-ES-01-31-08 1703EST


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