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Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge marketing push boosts truck traffic

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OGDENSBURG — A marketing campaign aimed at convincing Canadian truckers that using the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge can save money and time is already paying dividends in the form of increased traffic across the St. Lawrence River span, according to Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority officials.

John A. Rishe, OBPA director of commercial and industrial development, said Monday that commercial truck traffic across the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge has increased roughly 10 percent since the OBPA hired Canadian marketing firm McLellan Multimedia Group Corp. of Toronto to create an online strategy to promote the bridge’s usage among Canadian truckers.

Mr. Rishe said the uptick in usage is significant given that traffic across the international span connecting Canada and the United States had previously been waning.

“We hadn’t done any marketing in some time. Our bridge numbers were down,” Mr. Rishe said.

The OBPA paid about $20,000 to the McLellan Group to create what is being termed an “interactive marketing campaign” aimed at Canadian companies shipping goods to and from the U.S., with an emphasis on companies doing business in the Canadian province of Quebec, according to Mr. Rishe. He said targeting Quebec made strategic sense because there are a large number of Canadian firms that utilize the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway — also known as Highway 401 — to truck their goods across Ontario. Highway 401 stretches more than 500 miles, from Windsor, Ontario, to the border of Quebec.

Mr. Rishe said the marketing strategy the company designed for the OBPA includes an interactive animated map that points out the time that can be saved by crossing at Ogdensburg and has a schedule of fees and information on discounts and other financial savings that can be obtained through the purchase of special pre-paid crossing cards. He said the discounts make it easier and cheaper to traverse the border.

“We are kind of a hidden opportunity for truckers,” Mr. Rishe said. “We offer the quickest crossing lines and the cheapest tolls.”

In addition to generating operating capital for the OBPA, an increased number of Canadian truckers crossing at Ogdensburg is also a boon for the greater St. Lawrence County economy because the truckers frequent area hotels, restaurants and service stations, according to Mr. Rishe. He said annually a combined total of about 800,000 cars and trucks cross the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.

Frederick S. Morrill, deputy executive director of the OBPA, said bridge toll revenues account for about $2.5 million of the agency’s $6.2 million yearly budget. He said the exact toll a truck is charged to cross the bridge is based, in part, on the vehicle’s number of axles.

Mr. Morrill said of the approximately 800,000 vehicles that cross the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge each year, about 725,000 are passenger vehicles and about 75,000 are deemed commercial trucks.

Mr. Morrill said the recent 10 percent increase in truck travel over the bridge is significant from a revenue point of view because truck tolls are more than double that of passenger cars.

“In our budget we set 9.4 percent for truck traffic and we are at 10.3 percent now,” Mr. Morrill said. “That’s significant when the trucks are worth two-and-a-half times the value of a passenger vehicle.”

The promotional website recently created by the McLellan Group also includes a bilingual video produced in both English and French highlighting the advantages of using the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge.

The website says Ogdensburg has the cheapest tolls of the three international bridges that cross the St. Lawrence River.

Mr. Rishe said the information included on the website is beneficial not only to Canadian truckers doing business in Quebec and Ontario, but also stateside businesses looking to truck their wares north of the border.

He said in the month since the new marketing initiative was completed, the OBPA has already received inquiries from a number of trucking firms regarding the international span.

The McLellan website and promotional video for the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge can be found at http://www.quickcrossing.com.

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