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Binational Community Celebrates Groundbreaking of Otay East Port of Entry

-Editorial

It was a great day for border crossers in the Cali-Baja Mega Region as the groundbreaking took place for the new Otay East Port of Entry.

Representatives from both sides of the border gathered to celebrate the occasion as this project will improve mobility in the San Diego area and facilitate border crossings. Currently, more than 90 percent of California-Mexico trade is moved by truck. In 2019, the Otay Mesa and Tecate ports of entry processed a combined $48.3 billion in total bilateral trade, and that number is expected to grow over the coming years.

“This nearly 20-year-long, multi-agency effort will reduce border wait times, bolster our economy, and most of all: boost the quality of life for the people of our region,” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said. 

Rep. Juan Vargas echoed the Mayor’s comments:

“Otay Mesa East will benefit our regional economy and border mobility. Can’t wait to 2024!” Vargas stated.

The San Diego metropolitan area is home to two land ports of entry (LPOE), San Ysidro LPOE, a non-commercial port, and Otay Mesa LPOE, nine miles to the east. The Otay Mesa LPOE is the busiest commercial port in California, processing over $13.5 billion in exports and $37.4 billion in imports in the fiscal year 2021. Additionally, the Otay Mesa LPOE processes nearly 1 million commercial trucks, 2.1 million pedestrians, and 5 million privately owned vehicles (POVs) annually. The existing infrastructure cannot adequately accommodate tenant agency security requirements nor support current northbound commercial and pedestrian traffic loads.

To increase commercial vehicle and pedestrian processing capacity to support the tenant agencies’ ability to conduct their respective missions, GSA is planning to modernize and expand the existing port. The project involves doubling the number of pedestrian processing facilities from 6 to 12 lanes to better connect travelers to a nearby transit hub, construction of a new commercial annex building, commercial truck inspection circulation improvements, an increase of commercial inspection booths from 9 to 16, and construction of a visitor parking lot and employee parking structure.

Once complete the project will provide the port with adequate operational space, reduce traffic congestion, and create a safer environment for port employees and commercial vehicles.

Funding for a separate paving project ($1.6M) was recently included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

The U.S. and Mexico continue to enhance the existing San Diego-Baja California border infrastructure; however, increasing demands on today’s border crossings in the region are impeding mobility. Insufficient capacity at these border crossings, coupled with two-hour average wait times, costs both countries billions of dollars annually in foregone economic output while adversely impacting air quality in border communities.

The SR-11/OME POE, complemented by Mesa de Otay II on the Mexican side, will help solve this problem. Using variable tolls to provide a 20-minute average wait time goal, the POE will provide a new relief valve while managing traffic demand, resulting in decreased congestion and wait times for commercial and passenger vehicles at all the region’s POEs. 

The new OME POE will improve mobility and efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, foster innovative technology solutions, bolster the binational economy, and support regional security and safety all while delivering a significant investment for the California-Baja California region. Through efficiently managed operations currently underway in the region’s California Sustainable Freight Action Plan border pilot project, the new POE will be essential for a fully integrated regional transportation system that improves the region’s quality of life and positions the State for implementing USMCA.

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