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A grand opening celebration for the long-awaited completion of the California Route 905 freeway from the Otay Mesa port of entry to Interstate 805 was held on the freeway Wednesday, 12 days before the connector actually opens to motorists July 30.
Wednesday happened to be a day when a large number of officials responsible for the six-lane, 6.4-mile, $441 million project that should help greatly boost cross-border trade could be assembled.
The freeway was built with federal, state and local funds, with about $92 million coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus program. It will relieve pressure on Otay Mesa Road, a street parallel to the 905 that has a large number of stoplights and long has been clogged by tractor-trailer traffic. Otay Mesa is the land commercial port of entry in San Diego. State Route 905 factsheet (PDF). Route 905 map and construction phases.
A number of officials came in for high praise from Caltrans district Director Laurie Berman for their work on the 905. They included San Diego Association of Governments Executive Director Gary Gallegos and former Caltrans district director Pedro Orso-Delgado, now deputy city manager of Santee. "If it wasn't for Pedro's passion for 905, and sheer grit to get the job done, and get it funded, I don't think we'd be here today," Berman said.
"And you can't talk about the border, and border infrastructure, without talking about former state senator Denise Ducheny. And thanks for all you've done for border projects and the 905," Berman told her. Sandag first vice chairman Jack Dale, also a Santee council member, added: "This stuff wouldn't have happened without Denise Ducheny and we owe you so much for what you have done."
Photo: Denise Ducheny and Gary Gallegos.
Congressman Bob Filner, a Democrat who is in the November runoff for San Diego mayor, said, "Wow! Most of us didn't think this would happen in our lifetime.... When I got to Congress 20 years ago I said, 'You know, you guys just passed NAFTA, where's the roads, where's the infrastructure to make it work? We don't have any way to connect the border crossing to the freeways.' They said, 'Well, you're supposed to get that out of your local port projects.' And I said, 'You know, this is a national project.' ... So one of the first bills I got passed said there shall be a border infrastructure fund within the highway transportation bill."
Filner, who entered Congress in 1993, voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement, which came into effect in 1994. He long pushed for federal funding that came in bits and pieces for the 905 as a member of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
To point out the national importance of trade coming across the border, Filner said, "Thirty-six states in the United States, their biggest trading partner is Mexico. This is not just San Diego, not just Otay Mesa, this is the whole nation."
Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Alejandra Mier y Teran, whom Berman called a tireless champion for the 905, noted that 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the group and said the chamber could not have received a better present than the 905 completion. Mier y Teran said that in fiscal year 2011, there was $34 billion in two-way trade through Otay Mesa, and said almost half of California's exports to Mexico go through the port of entry.
Caltrans Chief Deputy Director Rick Land spoke about the proposal to build state Route 11 to connect a proposed new port of entry to the east to the 905. "Our goal is to develop and build vital transportation projects in this region so that both nations prosper," he said.
San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez expressed pleasure at seeing that around 270 attended the ceremony, which included lunch catered out of food trucks and the opportunity for those in attendance to ride a bicycle down the freeway. Alvarez said that while the freeway is not being named "for a particular person, for me it will be a freeway of the 'Gallegos entrance,' or the 'Filner exit,' or the 'Ducheny lane,' or the (Senator) 'Barbara Boxer fence.' " Alvarez drew laughter when he quickly pointed out that he was not referring to the border fence. The freeway has fences on either side of it.
Among others attending were Alfonso Bustamante Anchondo (left), honorary director of binational affairs for the city of Tijuana; San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox; Federal Highway Administration Associate Division Administrator Rick Backlund; Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom; Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox; Imperial Beach Mayor Jim Janney; and a representative from state Sen. Juan Vargas' office, Aaron Allen. Vargas last month clobbered Ducheny in a primary election involving the congressional seat Filner is vacating. Vargas and Ducheny also are Democrats.
Berman also praised freeway contractors Flatiron and Skanska.
Although the 905 is about to be fully opened, it is to have two more interchanges: one at the Route 125 toll road and one at Heritage Road. The costs of the interchanges, and landscaping, is estimated at around $163 million.
Dignitaries stood on the 905 following the ceremony. From left, they were: Former state Sen. Denise Ducheny, Sandag Executive Director Gary Gallegos, San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez, Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Alejandra Mier y Teran, Caltrans Chief Deputy Director Rick Land, Caltrans district Director Laurie Berman, Federal Highway Administration Associate Division Administrator Rick Backlund, Congressman Bob Filner, County Supervisor Greg Cox, and former Caltrans district director Pedro Orso-Delgado.
Bicycles were provided to those who wanted to bike on the freeway east as far as Britannia Boulevard, while a mariachi band played under the tent.
Caltrans district Director Laurie Berman (above) was the mistress of ceremonies. At left, people walk up the Caliente Avenue on-ramp to get to their cars at nearby San Ysidro High School. The freeway is to be completely open July 30.
Click on photo to see bigger photo
of state Route 905 map
and construction phases.