A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

GSA requests $226 million for San Ysidro border crossing project, says estimated overall cost has gone up to $732 million from $577 million

Phase 3 connecting I-5 to Mexico's new El Chaparral port of entry would leapfrog Phase 2; GSA also would build $23 million north-south pedestrian crossing there

If Congress approves Phase 3 funding, completing rest of project would cost an estimated $207.5 million more

By David Gaddis Smith,

dan tangherlini     U.S. General Services Administration Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini announced Wednesday that the GSA is requesting $226 million this year for the third phase of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. It would create a new southbound connection to Mexico from Interstate 5 and would "provide 17 additional northbound primary inspection booths."

         In a conference call with journalists, Tangherlini later said a start and end date on finishing the project will depend on if and when Congress approves funding Phase 3.  He said the current facility, built in 1973, no longer is adequate. san ysidro port project

      He said Phase 3 would leapfrog Phase 2 of the project, which would then be completed later. "We're going to switch Phase 3 with Phase 2, so we should probably name them differently," he said.

     He said funding the $226 million for Phase 3 still would leave Phase 2 unfunded. Officials said projected Phase 2 costs are $207.5 million.

     This would put the total estimated cost of the project at $732 million.

     According to GSA data, Phase 1's cost is $298.4 million. See Table toward bottom of this page on costs of the three phases.  Previous timeline of project

    The GSA also plans to build a north-south pedestrian crossing at Virginia Avenue connecting to Mexico's new El Chaparral border crossing. Funding for this is set at $23 million. Funding for this was originally in Phase 3, but is now included in Phase 1 appropriations.  

Time / San Ysidro Port of Entry expansion Northbound lanes Inspection booths
Before improvement project began 24 24
Now 17* 32*
This fall, with Phase 1 mostly completed 25 46
Once Phase 3 is completed 34 63

*Number was temporarily increased to 23 lanes and 43 booths last weekend; these figures can vary depending on the operational needs and manpower of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

     * * * *
     A GSA media release said the following:
     Investing in Border Infrastructure and Modernization:
The Budget includes two border crossing and inspection projects that will promote economic growth and national security. This includes a $226 million request for work on Phase 3 of the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Southern California, the busiest border crossing in the world.  Phase 3 creates a new southbound connection to Mexico with inspection facilities and will provide 17 additional northbound primary inspection booths.
    GSA is also requesting $61 million to expand and modernize the U.S. Land Port of Entry facilities at the Port of Laredo in Laredo, Texas. These investments will increase efficiency, create economic growth, and improve safety and security for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic.   
   These are critical investments in infrastructure that will create significant savings by preventing costly emergency repairs in the future and build upon our progress.

     Construction and the changes at the port are continuing. They have necessitated changing the Sentri fast-pass lanes this week (Story, Frontera, PDF). A construction break that opened 23 northbound lanes (and 43 inspection booths) to traffic this past weekend instead of 17 lanes (and 32 booths) greatly reduced wait times; officials are hopeful that such reduced times will be permanent once all the work is finished on the project in the next few years. Story, U-T San Diego.

     Wait times for getting into Mexico have been greatly reduced by its new El Chaparral port of entry, and a prediction of one-minute border waits made by GSA official Anthony Kleppe last year have largely proven to be true.

      Tangherlini also announced that office space at the Schwartz Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Diego would be reconfigured to house offices for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other U.S. organizations: "The requested $61.1 million would fund a project to reconfigure approximately 184,000 rentable square feet (rsf) of vacated space for occupancy by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Executive Office of Immigration Review, U.S. Attorneys, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Clerk, and the U.S. Trustee and the U.S. Magistrate Court. They will be leaving leased locations in the San Diego area, saving taxpayers approximately $2 million annually."

Timeline: GSA's San Ysidro overview webpage gave this (outdated) timeline for the port's construction phases:
Phase 1: December 2009 - July 2014
Phase 2: March 2013 - June 2016
Phase 3: April 2014 - June 2016

San Ysidro LPOE Fact Sheet (PDF)

Phase 1 funding was broken down on the GSA website as follows. The Phase 2 and Phase 3 figures came from the GSA on April 10:

Project phase

Fiscal Year

Amount Purpose
Phase 1 2004 $34.2 million Site and Design
Phase 1 2008 $37.7 million Site and Design
Phase 1 2008 $161.4 million Construction
Phase 1 2009 $58.9 million Construction
Phase 1 2011 $6.2 million Construction (ARRA funds)*
a) Phase 1 Total   $298.4 million Design, pedestrian bridge, southbound pedestrian crossing east of I-5, northbound vehicular inspection improvements, north and soundbound pedestrian crossing at Virgina Avenue connecting to Mexico's new El Chaparral crossing
b) Phase 2 unfunded $207.5 million Administration and pedestrian building
c) Phase 3 request made for FYI 2014 $226 million Southbound connection with inspection facilities; 17 northbound inspection booths, pending Congressional approval
Grand Total   $731.8 million  

* American Recovery and Investment Act.

The GSA's funding page from March 2013 says: "The original project budget developed in 2002 was $168 million. Subsequent studies and cost escalation have resulted in a current figure of $577 million."

GSA Pacific Rim public relations officer Traci Madison said, "The new $732 million figure updates project cost to account for construction cost escalation since the last formal funding request (2009), adds scope of work changes, and site acquisition costs."

U-T San Diego story: "Obama backs funds for border project."

April 2011: Overall story on the San Ysidro project
May 2012: GSA official says agency hoped to speed up construction of permanent I-5 connection to El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana. (This did not happen)

temporary curve into el chaparralnew northbound inspection booths






Photo on left shows new curve from Interstate 5 that leads to Mexico's new El Chaparral port of entry. Photo on right shows new double-stacked inspection booths that have been built as part of Phase 1 of the San Ysidro port improvement project. Photos from GSA website.