The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, along with congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle, came together on Dec. 23, 2013 to ask for one thing for Christmas: full funding for the next phase of the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry Renovation and Expansion Project in the fiscal year 2014 budget.
As the chamber and many others outlined in support letters, the project plays an essential role in improving our supply chains, national security and economic growth for our region and for our nation. With 11 million passenger vehicles, 68,000 buses and 8 million pedestrians utilizing the border for work and recreation each year, we can no longer afford to let vehicles, products or people sit idle at the border.
Fortunately our Christmas wish was heard and granted. Last week, President Obama signed the federal FY 2014 spending bill approved by Congress, which allocates $226 million in funding for Phase III of the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry Modernization and Expansion Project. The Phase III project, specifically, would expand southbound roadways and border facilities.
Last Thursday, I had the privilege of joining members of Congress Scott Peters, Juan Vargas and Susan Davis at a news conference in Washington, D.C. to formally announce and celebrate this achievement.
The tremendous leadership of our San Diego congressional delegation, including the advocacy of Juan Vargas, combined with ongoing pressure from Scott Peters, Susan Davis, Darrell Issa, Duncan Hunter and California senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, helped give the appropriations committees the push needed to ensure the funds for our region.
This successful effort shows that the support for moving our border region forward is extensive and widespread. The San Ysidro project represents a vital lifeline for our region. Local communities, residents and businesses depend on this port of entry for their jobs, families and daily lives. The border helps to complete supply chains and grow commerce across the region, state and nation. Cross-border commerce is alive and well in our region, but we must put the infrastructure in place for these opportunities to exist and to thrive.
We have all heard the revealing statistic of more than 55.5 million crossings between the United States and Mexico each year, making the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry the busiest international border crossing in the world. But this latest victory demonstrates that we are moving beyond just talking about the impact of our border. We are providing direction and action in support of this significant regional asset.
An efficient border is a game-changer for our region. Creating an efficient and modern border will take our region to the next level in terms of economic development, export/import capacity and our region’s viability in global competitiveness.
With Paola Avila’s new leadership as the executive director of the Chamber’s Mexico Business Center, we have set forth a busy and ambitious agenda for 2014 and beyond. The binational railroad, Enhanced Driver’s License legislation and immigration reform are just a few of our priorities for the next year. I look forward to working with many of you, along with our congressional delegation, on many of these items.
The collaboration of community leaders, organizations and diverse business industries is crucial to achieving our goals. Through bipartisanship and leadership we are able to strengthen our voice and actually achieve the things we’ve been talking about for years. Together we achieve results. This is what good governance looks like.
Sanders is president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and a former mayor of San Diego.