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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visits Otay Mesa East Port of Entry site

Every year, billions of dollars in trade goods pass through San Diego County’s three ports of entry along the border with Mexico.

On Friday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg came back to San Diego to highlight the funding and construction of what will be a fourth port of entry.

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Jacob Aere
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KPBS
A construction vehicle sits atop a dirt hill near the U.S.-Mexico border at the location for the future Otay Mesa East port of entry, Nov. 18, 2022.

He said the Otay Mesa East project is one of many his department is supporting in Southern California.

“Picture one of those trucks that’s going to come through Otay Mesa: it might head north to a warehouse connected to the Port of LA where we recently announced $20 million dollars to build a new four-lane roadway and bridge – which will save truck drivers a total of almost 2,500 hours every day,” Buttegieg said.

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Jacob Aere
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KPBS
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks to local and state officials, Nov. 18, 2022.

With the border fence at his back, Buttigieg described some of the upgrades that will come from President Biden’s $150 million infrastructure package boost for the development.

“A new inspection facility for commercial trucks, 10 new lanes for incoming vehicles, state of the art inspection equipment, zero-emissions chargers for staff vehicles and state of the art technology designed to make the entire operation safer and more efficient,” he said.

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Jacob Aere
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KPBS
The incomplete State Route 11 highway will connect the Otay Mesa East port of entry, Nov. 18, 2022.

Multiple agencies are coming together to work on the bi-national development, including CalTrans and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

Hasan Ikhrata, CEO of SANDAG, said the new port of entry will drastically reduce border wait times across the region.

“We’re talking about opening a border crossing that’s going to guarantee a 20 minute crossover between borders. And given the trade between the two nations, this is an economic prosperity to be happening soon,” the SANDAG CEO said.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said the project will also help cut down on carbon emissions.

“It's transformational for air quality by reducing emissions from idling trucks. And I'll remind folks that our border region has suffered the impacts of poor air quality more than any other part of our city,” Gloria said.

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Jacob Aere
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KPBS
In front of the U.S.-Mexico border fence, a large dirt patch with some pooling water is the future site of the Otay Mesa East port of entry, Nov. 18, 2022.

Officials said the project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2024.

One obstacle in the way for the future port of entry will be hiring enough employees to run the new facility amid staffing shortages at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

I report on City Heights and communities south of the Interstate 8 freeway. My beat covers housing, transportation, census and immigration policy, and a number of other issues important to these neighborhoods. No matter the topic, I seek the overlooked voices of these diverse communities to tell their stories.
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