SAN DIEGO.- United States authorities say the closing of Puerta Mexico in November is a fact, construction work is even being performed on both sides of the border to accommodate pedestrian and vehicular crossing.
A few days ago a delegation of 100 officers from both sides of the border traveled to Washington, where federal authorities reiterated the lack of funding to build the needed accesses towards the new Mexican crossing facilities; they say funding could arrive as late as 2014.
In addition, they informed that there is a diplomatic letter by the Mexican Federal Government confirming the closing of Puerta Mexico on the last day of October.
"The message they gave us at the Mexican Embassy was very clear, the posture of the Mexican Government is still the same as the one expressed in the diplomatic note to the United States Government which is that once the El Chaparral port starts functioning, the entry point known as Puerta Mexico will close completely," stated Mario López, president of Border Group based in Tijuana and San Diego.
The General Service Administration (GSA) informed that the new crossing into Mexico will start operating on November first.
For that reason, authorities will implement a temporary access at the end of I-5 that will reroute traffic through five lanes towards 22 booths at the El Chaparral border.
It was also informed that a study performed jointly with the California Transport Department (Caltrans) and the Secretariat of Communications and Transport (SCT in Spanish) from Mexico, calculates the vehicular crossing waiting time with the detour will be of no more than 29 minutes during "rush hours."
The biggest concern for San Ysidro small business owners is the new route of pedestrian crossing that would move to the east side (near the trolley) due to the remodeling of Puerta Mexico.
According to Jason Wells, president of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce, the change will take place next week; the pedestrian flow going north will have to share the area with the one going south.
In Mexico's side a number of constructions to tend to traffic coming from the United States can be seen being done next to the SENTRI lane.
Jason Wells stated that the problem is that the current infrastructure can't hold the number of people walking through the area as a result of this change.
"It's clear that it will be chaotic for the pedestrian crossing," he said. "The problem is that when the pedestrian crossing of Puerta Mexico closes, this new one does not have the capacity for the 25,000 people that use it daily."
The director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce said that they will ask the corresponding authorities to build a second entry port by El Chaparral near Virginia Avenue, so the public has another choice.
"If we are left with just one port it will be a problem: there will be taxicabs, the trolley, buses and now a lot more pedestrians both coming from Mexico and going there all in the same place," he cautioned.
San Ysidro business owners have also expressed their concern over these procedures.
Laura Delgado, a San Ysidro "pedicab" driver said the company she works for has been notified about the changes and they are now expectant of what that could mean.
"Of course it will affect us; I think it will affect everybody, business owners, people who cross every day and of course, us, the ones that are always here," she said.
"We can only wait now and see what happens, it will most likely be chaos but we're waiting to see how to adapt and better serve our clients."
Photo by GSA