A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith, MexicoPerspective
The new $7.3 million southbound pedestrian crossing to enter Tijuana at San Ysidro to the east of Interstate 5 opened Monday.
On Thursday, the long-used existing pedestrian entrance to Tijuana to the west of I-5 will close so that a connecting road between I-5 and Mexico's new El Chaparral port of entry can be completed in time for the new vehicular crossing to open Nov. 1.
The new pedestrian crossing to the east of I-5 begins south of the trolley and runs behind the Old Customs House and has an uphill grade of 3%, General Services Administration officials said Friday. It was unclear where the closest place that handicapped border crossers could be dropped off would be.
On Monday, the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce said that while it is proud of the new crossing, there is no cause for celebration because the crossing is going to be the only southbound one for some time.
A woman is among the first to cross into Mexico at the new pedestrian crossing at San Ysidro on Monday.
In the chamber's weekly newsletter, Executive Director Jason M-B Wells, said, "We still face an unacceptable situation for the 50,000 pedestrian trips, north- and south-bound, at San Ysidro everyday. The southbound pedestrian crossing we are opening today was meant to be an ancillary southbound crossing to the preexisting southbound we have at Puerta Mexico."
He said the new crossing was "built to handle 1/3 of the traffic it will actually have" and once across, pedestrians "will end up on the opposite side of the port of entry to (where) all of the parking, mass transit and taxis are in Mexico."
This sign was placed at the entrance to the pedestrian bridge over I-5.
Not only that, but pedestrians entering Mexico will be having to cross the line of pedestrians headed north to the U.S. Mexico did not route northbound pedestrians to the west of southbound ones because then merchants along the sidewalk would have been separated from their potential northbound customers.
The southbound pedestrians now are traveling in a lane that had been used by northbound buses and vehicles with Sentri fast-crossing passes, and a wood wall erected to separate the pedestrians and vehicles has created a very narrow lane for northbound Sentri vehicles.
The new crossing will be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists. On Friday, a GSA official said bicyclists would have to walk their bikes on the walkway leading to the crossing.
To see a larger version of the fact sheet, go to http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/104872.
Although the U.S. walkway to the crossing is relatively wide, the path narrows substantially on the Mexican side. It is more than 11 feet wide on much of the U.S. side, but narrows to less than five feet on the Mexican side.
Mexico is working on constructing a new building for the foot traffic, but it may not be finished until next year. In the meantime, a building next door has been renovated in order for pedestrians to pass through after pressing a stoplight button in front of immigration officials. If the stoplight turns green, a border crosser can pass. If it turns red, there is a secondary inspection.
Photo: The walkway on the Mexican side.
Left photo: The new pedestrian port of entry.
Right photo: The route to the new pedestrian walkway.
Left photo shows directions from the trolley and pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5 to the new pedestrian crossing.
Right photo shows where southbound and northbound pedestrian traffic will intersect in Tijuana. The left sign on the wall, built into what was a northbound vehicle lane, says "exit to Tijuana"; the right sign says "entrance to U.S." There was little northbound pedestrian traffic Monday morning, so there wound up being little problem with the intersection of northbound and southbound foot traffic.
Update: Televisa Channel 12 later reported that the removal of the old pedestrian crossing is having a dramatic negative effect on taxis and other businesses dependent on the foot traffic that used to cross to the west of I-5.
Update, Oct. 10: City of Tijuana imposes moratorium on changes in area around new port of entry for a year, including not allowing the construction of new billboards. Taxi drivers say they have not been notified of changes. A citizens forum is held in Tijuana about the changes. Stories, Frontera (PDF).
September: Old western pedestrian crossing closes at San Ysidro.
September: GSA official predicts one minute vehicular crossing times at El Chaparral, discusses new eastern pedestrian crossing.
September: Governor says as many gates will be opened as necessary to keep southbound border traffic flowing.
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.