BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — Starting Monday vaccinated Americans are being given the green light to cross over into Canada. It’s the first time the border will be open to non-essential travel in nearly 17-months.

“Yes very excited, we’ll see how it all goes, I’m sure there will be a line and hopefully the traffic won’t be backed up,” said Bowmansville resident Merton LaBounty.

LaBounty has been waiting a year and a half for the U.S Canadian border to open back up, during that time he’s been apart from his girlfriend, Tammy Yonkers, who lives in Fort Erie. Now that the border is opening to vaccinated Americans the couple no longer has to worry about how and when they’ll spend time together.

“This is the first step to get these families together and reunited, that’s the big thing, a lot of families need to be together and that’ll help opening it up like this,” LaBounty said.

Throughout the summer, John Adams would travel from Florida to Buffalo to protest calling for the border to open. He’s wasting no time to head up north.

“I feel very confident going to Canada and meeting our friends that we haven’t seen in a year and a half,” Adams said.

To cross over, U.S. citizens need to be vaccinated and produce a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to traveling.

“It’s been a process. You can’t say you know, you wake up one morning and say oh let’s go to Canada, you’ve got to plan it,” Adams said.

Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop says given the health procedures that are in place for travelers, he’s not concerned this could cause a spike in covid cases.

“As more and more individuals become vaccinated, our societies, both Canada and the United States are in a better position to fend off any future infections or any variants that might arise from the COVID-19,” he said.

He says opening the border helps boost tourism and the economy in Fort Erie, and he’s looking forward seeing Americans again.

“It’s really encouraging that we’re going to be able to see our American neighbors, friends, and many cases family members come back to our community,” Redekop said. “There are many property owners here, and frequently we don’t put the human face on those individuals, these are often very good friends, people that have been supportive of our community.”

Vaccinated Canadians are still not able to cross the bridge into the U.S. Those restrictions are set to expire on August 21st. It’s unclear if it’ll be extended again.

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter from Buffalo, N.Y. who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.