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Border Crossing Delays Cost San Diego-Tijuana Region Billions, Report Finds

Cars wait in traffic at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in this photo taken in D...

Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Above: Cars wait in traffic at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in this photo taken in December, 2019.

Border crossing delays have cost the San Diego-Tijuana megaregion's economy at least $3.4 billion and 88,000 jobs as well as becoming a huge environmental concern, a report released Friday at the San Diego Association of Governments Borders Committee found.

The report, "Impacts of Border Delays at California — Baja California Land Ports of Entry," looks at one year — 2016 — and details how border delays harm the economy and environment on both sides of the border.

"Reducing border wait time and related emissions is crucial to the prosperity of communities on both sides of the border," said Serge Dedina, SANDAG Borders Committee chair and Imperial Beach mayor. "This report demonstrates the tremendous positive impact a new, 21st century border crossing could have on the intertwined economy and environment of our binational region."

The report was a collaboration between SANDAG, Caltrans and the Imperial County Transportation Commission. Representatives from both sides of the border were in attendance during the report's presentation.

The report shows that without additional enhancements to the region's ports of entry, the estimated economic loss will continue to grow to more than $5 billion and more than 97,000 jobs lost by 2025. According to the report, these losses could be fully mitigated with additional enhancements, including the opening of the Otay Mesa East — Mesa de Otay II Port of Entry.

Impacts from the 2016 time period reported on include the mentioned $3.4 billion in lost economic output and 88,000 jobs and border delays which resulted in an average of 457 metric tons of carbon dioxide each day, equivalent to consumption of more than 51,400 gallons of gasoline.

During Friday's meeting, local leaders also received an update on progress of one of the planned enhancements referenced in the report — the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry project, which is a joint venture between SANDAG and Caltrans, in collaboration with state and federal partners in the U.S. and Mexico.

"The Otay Mesa East Port of Entry is an innovative border infrastructure project that brings us closer to achieving our binational vision," said Caltrans District 11 Director Gustavo Dallarda. "Providing transportation options to move people and goods where, when and how they want to go is an investment that will improve our communities, help our planet and strengthen the partnerships in our Cali-Baja region."

Construction is underway on the final segment of SR 11 and the SR 125/SR 11/SR 905 southbound connector ramps, which are part of the overall project.

The enhancements highlighted in the report, including the future Otay Mesa East Port of Entry, could also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by border delays. Emissions related to border delays are predicted to increase from 2016 to 2025, but would decrease in 2035 following planned improvements and phasing in of cleaner and more-efficient vehicles.

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