By John Dias

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s a big change affecting America and its two closest neighbors.

The U.S. will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico next month, allowing nonessential travel for the first time in more than a year and a half.

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As CBS2’s John Dias reports, in just a few weeks you can head on a train out of Penn Station to Canada once again.

Both Mexico and Canada have pressed the U.S. for months to ease restrictions, saying it has separated families and stopped leisure trips.

Wednesday, national leaders are readying land borders. Come next month, vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the U.S., Canada and Mexico will reopen to legal, nonessential travel – but these international visitors must be vaccinated.

COVID VACCINE

It’s happening around the same time restrictions are set to be eased for air travel into the country.

By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to the U.S., like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated.

The COVID pandemic caused a 19 month freeze. Only essential travel, such as trade, has been allowed, though that industry was still hit hard.

An estimated 500,000 containers are still sitting on cargo ships off the Southern California coast, and here at home, ongoing shipping delays are hurting local businesses too. Everyone is impacted by skyrocketing shipping prices – per container, it’s sometimes 10 times the cost.

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It’s causing concern ahead of the holiday season.

“If something that usually takes days takes weeks to arrive, by Christmas we are going to have a lot of empty Christmas trees, and sad Chanukah nights. And parents all across America will be writing more IOU cards than ever before,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer.

Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey, stood near waters off Newark, where at any given time one or two container ships are held up a day or two, waiting for space. He says America must develop more manufacturing here, and the worlds five major shipping companies, all based abroad and sometimes seemingly out of reach, must be investigated.

“You’re claiming supply and demand,” Gottheimer said. “But any economist will tell you the prices are way beyond natural tendencies of the marketplace.”

The Just Jersey boutique in Morristown is just one of many places the worldwide shipping crisis is hitting home. Vendors are short on supplies to make the products..

“I think we’re gonna have limited quantities of some of our top selling items,” said co-owner Tina Bologna.

Like many retailers large and small, the owner is advising customers to rethink holiday shopping strategies and consider starting early.

“I think if you see something and you really love it, buy it now, because it may not be there when you come back,” Bologna said.

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“I applaud our federal partners for reopening our borders to Canada, something I have called for since the beginning of the closure,” Gov. Kathy Hochul wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to welcoming our Canadian neighbors back to New York as we continue to rebuild and recover from this pandemic.”

John Dias