Cross-border advocates got a major wish fulfilled last week when the San Ysidro Port of Entry renovation and expansion project officially received $226 million in federal funding.
The three-phase, multi-year project aims to reduce congestion at the world’s busiest land border by modernizing the port with more inspection booths, better road connections and new administration facilities, U.S. border officials said.
The $1.1 trillion spending bill approved by Congress earlier this month earmarks $128.3 million for the project and calls for an additional $97.7 million to be redirected to the project from funds previously allocated to the General Services Administration, which is overseeing the construction.
Specifically, the funds will pay to realign a portion of Interstate 5 south to connect with Mexico’s new inspection station, known as El Chaparral, GSA officials said. It will also pay to complete the 62 inspection booths for northbound drivers and one dedicated bus lane.
Thus far, the GSA has completed work on a pedestrian bridge, a southbound pedestrian crossing and 46 of the 63 planned inspection booths, said Ruth Cox, the agency’s pacific rim regional administrator.
“This $226 million funding will allow us to construct a new southbound approach to (El Chaparral), thus freeing up land to construct an additional 17 northbound inspection booths,” Ruth said.
More than 50,000 vehicles and about 25,000 pedestrians use the port each year.
Elected officials and business leaders held a joint news conference on Dec. 23 calling on Congress to continue funding the project. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, said it was his “only Christmas wish.”
Vargas and about a dozen other local leaders said during the news conference that the long border waits were hurting the region’s economy.