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Border & Immigration

PedWest opens to the delight of cross-border commuters

Merlene Sepulveda crossed the border in record time on Monday morning. That’s because the PedWest crossing in San Ysidro was open for the first time in nearly three years.

“I definitely missed PedWest,” Sepulveda said. “We waited 3 to 4 hours on the other line, especially during the holiday shopping season.”

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) opened PedWest at 6 a.m. For the time being, it will remain open daily between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. PedEast will remain open 24 hours a day.

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CBP originally closed the port of entry in April 2020 when pandemic travel restrictions led to a big decrease in border traffic.

However, when the travel restrictions were lifted, PedWest remained closed. As a result, all pedestrian border traffic in San Ysidro was funneled into PedEast. Cross-border commuters complained of waiting as much as five hours to cross on foot at PedEast.

After the closure, a makeshift camp filled with thousands of asylum seekers had formed on the Mexican side of the PedWest crossing. The migrants wanted to be in the right place when it opened again.

But that never happened. The Tijuana Police Department and Mexican military cleared the camp last February.

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The crowds at PedWest were relatively sparse on Monday. Cross-border commuters walking into San Diego said there was virtually no wait on the Mexican side.

“Not even a minute,” said Laura Ornelas, who crossed the border to go shopping at a nearby Ross and Nike outlet.

The pandemic-era restrictions were particularly hard on San Ysidro’s business community. PedWest is across the street from the Las Americas outlets and its reopening will bring much-needed foot traffic back to the stores.

“This is critical for us,” said Jason Wells, CEO of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce. Wells has been one of the most outspoken voices about reopening PedWest.

And though PedWest traffic was light on Monday, Wells expects it to increase once the word gets out and reduce the PedEast wait times.

“I would say within two weeks you are almost going to have a 50-50 split,” he said.

However, the traffic at PedWest is still just one way – the Mexico-bound lanes are still closed. Several people trying to cross to Mexico Monday morning were turned away.

CBP did not respond to a question from KPBS regarding when the Mexico-bound lanes will reopen.