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Friday, April 13, 2012

San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition to ask U.S. to immediately build pedestrian crossing at Virginia Avenue for direct connection to new Mexican port of entry

Mexico plans to close current southbound pedestrian crossing just west of I-5 and new southbound pedestrian crossing east of I-5 may not be able to handle flow of traffic

The San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition on Friday decided to ask the U.S. government to immediately build a new pedestrian crossing at Virginia Avenue in San Ysidro that would meet up with Mexico's new El Chaparral port of entry. El Chaparral is scheduled to open this fall.

Because the U.S. does not plan to connect Interstate 5 to El Chaparral until 2016, Mexico is planning an alternate route from the terminus of I-5 to get traffic to El Chaparral, several hundred meters to the west. Doing that means that the current southbound pedestrian crossing just to the west of I-5 would have to be closed. A new southbound pedestrian crossing being built behind the Old Customs House to the east of I-5 was not designed to handle all of San Ysidro's southbound pedestrian traffic, said Jason M-B Wells, executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce and organizer for the San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition.

The U.S. government is aware of the pedestrian crossing issue and has been looking into the idea of a new crossing to connect to El Chaparral. It had been planning to build a pedestrian crossing there in the next few years anyway. Virginia Avenue is a street west of the UETA duty free shop and east of Las Americas Premium Outlets that connects directly to El Chaparral. Map showing Virginia Avenue.

virginia avenue gate to el chaparral

Virginia Avenue gate to El Chaparral

The coalition also is asking the U.S. General Service Administration to also build a traffic roundabout on Virginia Avenue to ease any congestion caused by the dropping off and picking up of pedestrians who would be walking across the border at El Chaparral.

Wells said he hopes the vehicular connection to El Chaparral proves successful. The coalition was disappointed in the final U.S. blueprint to connect I-5 to El Chaparral because the addition of U.S. inspection booths just before the new Mexican port of entry crowded out plans to have community development and businesses around the crossing. Wells said that if the new Mexican vehicular connection works and there aren't "crazy wait times, ... this gives us the most opportunity inasfar as development and access to the port."

Many Mexican business interests and many U.S. officials and business people fear that the new vehicular connection will cause a bottleneck and major delays for southbound traffic into Mexico. Interstate 5 will go from six lanes to perhaps one bus lane and four other vehicle lanes for perhaps several hundred meters before being funneled into as many as 22 Mexican inspection gates. Mexican federal officials believe, and motorists must hope, that the large number of gates will make up for the loss of time that will be caused by the hard right turn involved and the reduction in lanes to the new port of entry. Wait times also may be impacted by a more rigorous Mexican regime in addition to a more rigorous U.S. inspection regime.
Previous analysis of the problems the new border crossing may pose.

Wells estimated that a new pedestrian crossing at Virginia Avenue would cost about $25 million.