Where should I cross the Niagara River?
March 21, 2012 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Border crossings along the Niagara River: Peace Bridge or Lewiston-Queenston?

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be driving from my home in western Mass. to visit my sister, who lives in Guelph, Ontario. Most of my driving will on be the New York Thruway (I-90), but I'm trying to figure out the best place to cross the border along the Niagara River. The map makes it look like there are two viable routes:
  1. via Grand Island and the Lewiston-Queenston bridge, and
  2. via the Peace Bridge & the Queen Elizabeth Way.
Google Maps puts the driving time at eight minutes shorter for Route #1, but I'm wondering if the Peace Bridge is a larger border crossing and therefore less prone to delays. For what it's worth, I'll be arriving (entering Canada) in the mid- to late afternoon (ulp) on the way there; the return trip (entering the U.S.) will be in the mid-morning on Monday.

Can any Mefites who've had experience with these crossings share your experience?
posted by Johnny Assay to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Here are the current traffic conditions. As a general rule, Lewiston-Queenston is quicker, although all crossings are bad on holidays, Friday afternoons/evenings, and Sunday afternoon/evenings.
posted by notme at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2012

Best answer: You can get current wait times at 800-715-6722 and then hit 2 as soon as the recording starts. They update every hour or half hour. Beyond that, there is no useful "This one is usually better*." They're all massively variable, and one can have a wait time of an hour while another is minimaltonodelays at the same time.

Also don't forget the Rainbow Bridge right by the falls too. Getting between 190, the bridge, and onto the expressway in NF, Ont is no big deal.

*Unless you have Nexus cards. Then take the Whirlpool, which is Nexus-only.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:18 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also also: don't forget you need passports, passport cards, or enhanced driver's licenses now. And it's not bullshit anymore.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Is the construction done at the L-Q?

I have always used the Peace Bridge with little difficulty.

You can also follow the CBSA's Twitter feeds for Canada-bound wait times: @CBSA_QLB, @CBSA_PBR, and @CBSA_RBB.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 2:24 PM on March 21, 2012

I live close to the Peace Bridge, so have used it hundreds of times; have always had long waits at other bridges, I think because they tend to be closer to outlet malls and tourist attractions, so the bridge crossers often have done shopping and it takes time to declare all that stuff.
posted by Riverine at 2:29 PM on March 21, 2012

My parents live in Buffalo, and we make this crossing monthly, at least. There's an app called Border Buddy, which is accurate enough within our experience.

That said - we have stopped crossing at Queenston-Lewiston because it is always more congested. There are always fewer booths open, the speed on the bridge is slower (15km! My car idles faster than that!) and it's really ugly and frustrating because you can't see what it's like until you get there. With the Peace Bridge, you can see how congested it is as you approach and then decide if you want to go for another choice. Grand Island Bridge traffic in mid to late afternoon is a consideration too - not much, because Buffalo area traffic jams are nothing like Toronto rush hours, comparatively - but still. The Peace Bridge adds time to our trip on the QEW end, and it's more like 20 minutes, really, but I'd rather be moving than sitting in boring bridge traffic; and you'll avoid Grand Island traffic because I think there's still some construction around there?

A good compromise at that time of day going into Canada is the Rainbow Bridge, if there's not to much Grand Island traffic. It's prettier, and and often it's the best of both worlds in terms of moving and mileage. It cuts off the longest boring part of the QEW past the Peace Bridge - but you have to wiggle a bit off the I-90 to get there.
posted by peagood at 2:31 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

We cross the border regularly and we use the Peace Bridge. Every time I've tried to cross at Queenston-Lewiston it's been full of traffic. The Peace Bridge is consistently the smoothest, fastest, most direct (easiest to navigate getting on and off the highways) crossing of all the options for us (I don't like crossing at Rainbow Bridge, personally).

At the Peace Bridge the most congested times are Friday and Sunday afternoon/evening and holiday weekends. Thursday afternoon shouldn't be that long a wait and my experience with weekday mid-mornings is that they are positively zippy.
posted by flex at 2:45 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

We also cross regularly and just call the number to get accurate and timely information directly from the bridge authority. Then we go to the one with the shortest wait.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:15 PM on March 21, 2012

We would always take the Peace Bridge, always. Truck traffic always seemed to keep the LQ backed up.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:12 PM on March 21, 2012

For God's sake don't take the Queenston-Lewiston bridge unless you are a) crossing less than 30 minutes past the hour and b) the wait time hotline tells you that bridge has NO wait but every other crossing has a long wait. (The wait time thing is updated on the hour, so ime it was not especially reliable more than ~20 minutes after the hour. YMMV.)

If all went perfectly well, the QL was usually about 5-10 minutes faster (for the routes I typically took) then say the Peace Bridge. But every time I had a truly, mind-bendingly awful wait (we're talking a 3 hour, wondering whether you will run out of gas in this stupid godforsaken line of cars kind of wait; the sort of wait where even you though you budgeted INSANE amounts of extra time to catch that flight out of the Buffalo airport, you couldn't possibly miss it, hahahaha) it was the Queenston-Lewiston bridge. Eventually we just decided it was never worth the risk, after a couple times when the wait-time hotline was just stupidly, hilariously wrong.
posted by chalkbored at 5:20 PM on March 21, 2012

Response by poster: For the record: I took the Peace Bridge both ways, and had to wait for precisely one car at each border crossing. The toll-free number for the bridge commission was especially helpful when I was coming from the States (I had my phone turned off while in Canada to avoid roaming charges.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:09 AM on March 27, 2012

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