House Appropriations Committee tours land ports, sees construction funding at work
By Alex Randolph
On April 15, 2014, Congressional staff from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations toured two of the busiest land border crossings in the Western Hemisphere, the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa Land Ports of Entry (LPOEs). GSA Senior Asset Manager Anthony Kleppe, Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator Alex Randolph, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations Officers Oscar Preciado, Bruce Ward, and Lawrence Fanning accompanied the Congressional staffers. They were briefed on the port expansion and reconfiguration project, current construction status, staffing levels, and operational efficiency initiatives.
At San Ysidro the group had an opportunity to see up close the Phase 1 construction components that have been completed - the 24 new inspection lanes and 47 inspection booths, the pedestrian bridge and southbound pedestrian crossing on the east side of the port, as well as the improvements that are ongoing. GSA is currently making improvements to the primary vehicle inspection lanes, secondary inspection area and the soon-to-be-completed head house.
With the passage of the Fiscal Year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the $226 million needed for Phase 3 of the project has been fully funded. Phase 2 funding is included in the 2015 Presidential Budget and awaits Congressional approval.
The San Ysidro LPOE is a major gateway between the United States and Mexico, serving the border crossings of more than 50,000 northbound vehicles and approximately 25,000 northbound pedestrians every day. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) projects an 87% increase in vehicle traffic in San Ysidro by the year 2030.
At Otay Mesa the staff experienced first-hand the importance of the LPOE as a key economic engine for the binational region and the current commercial port’s challenge to keep pace with the commercial import and inspection needs. This multi-modal (commercial, non-commercial, and pedestrian) port of entry handles an average of 16,000 privately owned vehicles, 2,000 commercial trucks, 100 buses, and 11,000 pedestrian inspections daily.
Otay Mesa is one of the ten busiest gateways in the country and is the busiest commercial port on the California/Baja California border, handling the second highest volume of trucks and third highest dollar volume of trade among all U.S. - Mexico LPOEs with billions of dollars in commercial freight. As the only commercial port of entry in the San Diego region, Otay Mesa is a major driver of the Southern California and Baja economies.