San Diego Union-Tribune: U.S. allocates $150 million to support construction of new border crossing at Otay Mesa

By Alexandra Mendoza

Construction of the new Otay Mesa border crossing will receive $150 million in federal money.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will announce Thursday that the Biden administration will allocate a total of $1.5 billion from the Infrastructure to Rebuild America program for projects that “strengthen supply chains, help make goods more affordable, and are located in rural areas and historically disadvantaged communities.”

A chunk of that money will go toward the new port of entry, known as Otay Mesa East or Otay II, that is under construction between California and Mexico.

“Today we are announcing transformative investments for the nation’s roads, bridges, ports and rail to improve the way Americans get around, as well as help lower the costs of shipping freight,” Buttigieg said in a statement.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif) announced the U.S. Department of Transportation will allocate $150 million to the new port, one of 26 projects nationwide to benefit from the federal money.

Unlike other ports of entry, such as San Ysidro, this new gateway will require a fee that will guarantee an average wait time of 20 minutes.

The Otay Mesa East border crossing will initially have 10 lanes — five for passenger vehicles and five for trucks — with the option to interchange them depending on demand.

“These funds are crucial to move construction along,” Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) said in a statement.

The Otay Mesa East project includes both construction of the new port of entry and a roadway network in the area.

It also includes inspection equipment for Customs and Border Protection personnel, zero-emission chargers for staff vehicles, and a commercial vehicle screening facility to be used by the California Highway Patrol and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

U.S. and Mexican authorities have said the new entry will be ready by 2024.

Last month, Padilla, a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, visited the site where the port of entry is being built.

He was accompanied by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, as well as officials from the California Department of Transportation and the San Diego Association of Governments.

“Modernizing our land ports of entry is critical for improving the efficiency of cross-border travel that is an engine of California’s economy,” Padilla said in a statement. “It is important to invest in our border region as we work to recover equitably from the COVID-19 pandemic and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he added.

In August, leaders from both sides of the border gathered on the U.S. side of the construction site to celebrate a groundbreaking.

It is estimated that each year the increasing border wait times cost Mexico and the United States a combined $3.4 billion in economic output and more than 88,000 jobs, California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis said at the time.

“The Otay Mesa East port of entry is one of California’s highest priority infrastructure projects,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “A state-of-the-art facility that will reduce wait times, curb greenhouse gas emissions, power economic growth, enhance regional mobility and bolster international trade along the busiest border region in the Western Hemisphere.”

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