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Otay Mesa Border Crossing To Increase Hours For Trusted Travelers

Aired 2/11/16 on KPBS News.

A trusted traveler program is expanding its hours of operation at the Otay Mesa port of entry starting next Tuesday.

Travelers enter the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, May 2, 2011.
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Above: Travelers enter the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, May 2, 2011.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday it will expand hours of operation for SENTRI lanes at the Otay Mesa port of entry starting next Tuesday.

SENTRI is a trusted traveler program that offers expedited screening for members upon arrival to the U.S.

Otay Mesa's SENTRI lanes will be open from 4 a.m. until midnight every day for both pedestrians and vehicles as of Feb. 16. Currently, the hours of operation are fewer, and they vary for pedestrians and vehicles depending on the day of week.

Joseph Misenhelter, the assistant director for the port of entry, said officials wanted to simplify the service.

“It’s 4 in the morning to midnight every day of the week, doesn’t matter if you’re driving or if you’re walking, so I think that helps people, it causes less confusion," he said.

He said the decision was also made in response to increased use of SENTRI lanes in Otay Mesa. About 22 percent of all vehicle traffic goes through SENTRI. More than 20,000 vehicles and about 9,000 pedestrians cross the Otay Mesa port of entry each day.

“It wasn’t true in the past, but now we have sufficient growth and travelers in the program that there’s enough volume to justify expanding the hours," Misenhelter said.

He said he hopes the expanded hours of operation will encourage more people to apply for SENTRI, which stands for "Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection."

General traffic vehicle and pedestrian lanes at the Otay Mesa port of entry are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as they are at the San Ysidro port of entry. SENTRI lanes in San Ysidro are always open.

Misenhelter said Otay Mesa's SENTRI lanes may always be open in the future if traffic sufficiently increases.

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