A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith, MexicoPerspective.com
Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán said Tuesday that if more than 22 gates are needed to keep traffic flowing smoothly into Tijuana at the new El Chaparral port of entry, then more will be opened, Frontera newspaper reported Wednesday. Story, Frontera (PDF).
Mexico is planning to close the current Puerta México entry into Mexico from Interstate 5 and replace it with the state-of-the-art El Chaparral port of entry several hundred yards to the west Nov. 1. To do so, it has been building a temporary five-lane connector along the border fence. The permanent, more direct connection is not scheduled to be finished by the U.S. until 2016.
In photo at left, a new concrete roadway that will take traffic from I-5 to El Chaparral had been partly laid down on Sept. 13. The connector will run between the border fence and a cinderblock wall to the south of the fence.
Some have worried that only having five lanes of traffic and having to negotiate a curve that has to be created to get traffic from I-5 to the connector road will create a bottleneck and long delays for people wanting to cross the border. But Mexican officials say that because the traffic will fan out to 22 inspection booths once it arrives at El Chaparral, vehicles should flow through relatively smoothly. Currently, six lanes of I-5 traffic enter Mexico and can fan out to 11 gates.
To see a larger version of these representations, go to http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/104872.
Osuna said if more than 22 gates are needed to keep traffic flowing, then more than 22 gates will be opened, leaving open the possibility that some traffic might go through the old port of entry if major problems develop. He indicated that Mexico would work hard to ensure a smooth crossing flow.
"We want more and more Americans and Mexican-Americans to come spend their money in Baja Californa; the federal government and the state are meeting a longstanding desire not just of Tijuana, but also of Rosarito and Ensenada that also are served by the port of entry," Osuna Millán said at the swearing in of Mario Escobedo Carignan (right) as the coordinator of the state's business coordination councils. Earlier this year, Escobedo expressed great concern that the new El Chaparral connection will back up traffic. Mario Escobedo sworn in (PDF).
Earlier in the week, Julián Palombo Saucedo, president of the Tijuana Tourist Business Association, had laid out a nightmare scenario of six-hour waits to cross the border into Mexico when Puerta México closes. That article was published in El Mexicano newspaper on Monday. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Palombo Saucedo's comments in turn may have helped create a frenzy of sorts in Tijuana on Monday where some members of the media got the false idea that all southbound border traffic into Tijuana would have to go through the Otay crossing. Televisa Channel 12 aired such a report Monday night. It corrected its report on Tuesday night to say that southbound traffic would continue to cross at San Ysidro.
Palombo Saucedo also is opposed to a proposed cross-border pedestrian bridge for airline passengers to get to and from the Tijuana airport from San Diego. Last week, Mayor Carlos Bustamante said he was holding up the project until the company that operates the airport pays its taxes.
On Tuesday, former state Sen. Denise Ducheny said at a Transborder Institute event at the University of San Diego that a greater problem holding up the new connection to the airport is that the U.S. government wants the developer of the crossing to pay for the salaries of Customs and Border Patrol agents who would be checking documents and making other revisions at the crossing.
Meanwhile, new U.S. Consul Andrew S.E. Erickson said the United States would do everything it could to ensure as smooth a transition as possible to the new El Chaparral border crossing. He said the U.S. would try to provide more timely information about the crossing.
At left, photo taken Sept. 13 shows new concrete connector roadway to El Chaparral partly laid down in this view looking east toward the current port of entry. At right, the area where the connector road is being built is seen a few weeks ago before the concrete was laid down.
The right photo was taken from a similar angle as the photo at the top of this story.
Update, Sept. 20: The General Services Administration announced Thursday that the new southbound crossing to the east of Old Customs House is to open at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 24. GSA also said the current southbound crossing will close permanent at 9 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 27 so that I-5 can be connected to the road leading to El Chaparral port of entry.
Sept. 20: Frontera story on the new crossing (PDF).
El Mexicano reports on the new pedestrian crossing (PDF). Jump.
September: New connecting lanes to be 10-feet wide.
August: Deportees now being crossed at Otay Mesa port of entry.
July: Tax Administration Service spokesman says El Chaparral to be ready for business in October.
June: Foreign Ministry official tells U-T San Diego that Puerta México will close when El Chaparral opens.
May: GSA presentation to San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.
May: GSA presentation to Sandag.
May: Baja California governor, federal transportation minister say Puerta México will not close in October when new El Chaparral port of entry opens
April: San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition seeks new pedestrian crossing, roundabout at Virginia Avenue.
April: Story on new eastern pedestrian crossing.
March: Analysis of the problems the new border crossing may pose.