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Binational leaders cut ribbon on Otay Mesa border crossing improvements

Cars enter the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, Aug. 15, 2019.
Andi Dukleth
Cars enter the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, Aug. 15, 2019.

Federal officials marked the completion of commercial improvements on the truck inspection portion for the Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry Tuesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

The improvements, which included increasing the number of commercial truck processing lanes from nine to 16, were intended to expand processing capacity and improve sustainability.

"GSA (General Services Administration) embraces our agency partnerships which are enabling the accomplishment of multiple missions while having a positive economic impact on the greater San Diego community," said Nina Albert, GSA's public buildings service commissioner. "Otay Mesa is a great example where we see traffic having an impact on the economy and community. Here, we've aligned sustainability features of design and construction plans with the culture of the community and its needs without compromising operational mission objectives."

The GSA just received $3.4 billion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for 26 major modernization and construction projects at land ports of entry along the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada. The ribbon- cutting ceremony, held atop the new employee parking structure, was attended by legislators from the binational community, federal officials and civic leaders.

"The Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry is an important part of our regional economy," said Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego. "Otay Mesa is one of the busiest commercial ports of entry, and these improvements will invest in more efficient flows of commerce and boost commercial processing.

"Expanding and modernizing this port of entry will benefit the economy on both sides of the border, and I'm proud to have supported this vital project from its inception to completion," he added.

Figures from the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection show an increasing number of cargo truck crossings at Otay Mesa with 958,766 in Fiscal Year 2019. According to the agency, truck crossings dipped by 51,221 in FY 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic raged, but crossings increased by more than 108,000 trucks last year.

This translates to importing $34 billion of goods in FY19, $32 billion in FY20 and more than $37 billion in FY21 at California's busiest commercial truck crossing.

"The improvements GSA is making continue to speed the importation of just-in-time shipments into the U.S., reduce wait times and vehicle emissions, and improve the supply chain by eliminating long-standing vehicular conflicts within the facility that have hampered commercial flows for decades," the GSA's Acting Regional Administrator Dan Brown said.

The full Otay Mesa modernization and expansion project — slated for completion in spring 2023 — has designs to double pedestrian lanes from six to 12, a relocation of hazardous material processing and rearranging operational space to reduce traffic, among other items.

"The Otay Mesa modernization and expansion project is creating a safer and more efficient facility to support our processing capabilities at one of the busiest cargo ports of entry in the nation," said Sidney Aki, CBP's director of field operations in San Diego. "This modernization allows our officers to continue protecting our nation's borders, while facilitating the flow of commerce between Mexico and the United States. Our agency is extremely excited to have this innovative project come to fruition here very soon."

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