Delays at the Otay II Port of Entry project represent a threat to the economy and tourism on both sides of the border.
Unfortunately, long lines at the Otay and San Ysidro ports of entry have become a daily problem that affects thousands of people in both Californias, with waiting times that have exceeded 3 hours.
Despite the progress made by the federal government of Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pointed out that US authorities need to redouble their efforts and resources to meet their part of the agreement in order to build the project in time whose deadline was estimated to be at the end of 2024.
The governor of Baja California, Marina del Pilar, said in a press conference that Mexico has invested more than 20 billion pesos in all customs in Baja California and that the necessary actions have been carried out so as to meet the agreement’s deadlines. The Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) is in charge of this project.
"We thought that by the end of this year (...) we could finish the Otay II project, however, in the United States, there is still a very important delay regarding building this project," the state governor said.
During his visit to Baja California, the President of Mexico called on US authorities to speed up the construction of this project.
"From Tijuana, I called on US authorities to do what they must do because they are very far behind (...) we are going to finish this first," he stated.
The joint project came about as an initiative to boost the economy of both borders, mainly after the crisis that resulted from COVID-19. However, several difficulties have arisen.
"If the part that the US should build is not finished, we won't be able to use this port of entry that is so necessary so that traffic and merchandise increase in this border," López Obrador stated.
Though the president said that his wish is that federal projects are finished during his term, US authorities estimate that the Otay II port of entry will be finished in 2026.
In an interview with San Diego Red, Joaquin Luken, Director of Smart Border Coalition, explained that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) are both involved in this project.
"There are some design agreements by SANDAG and CALTRANS, however, this doesn't mean that the process is being finished, because the most important thing is the funds for the staff at the port of entry. Around 350 active agents are contemplated, which is why it is necessary to have an immediate answer from CBP (Customs and Border Protection) and GSA (General Services Administration)," Luken said.
Currently, the idea is that 12 lanes are opened at the Otay II port of entry, of which 7 are meant for people and 5 are for commercial lines.
"The issue regarding the construction of this port is very important, but then there’s what comes after, the administration, the maintenance, and the staff, which means CBP agents and the organizations that are part of the port of entry, all of that is being taken into consideration," he emphasized.
In addition, he said that SANDAG and CALTRANS representatives are waiting to sign an agreement with both agencies to begin a formal design, which is the reason why this project could be extended until 2026.
"That is the estimated time that both organizations who are leading this project have, however, they also said that they are making efforts so that it concludes before these deadlines, when they are able to hire the agents and they reach an agreement regarding the design negotiations," Joaquin Luken added.
It should be noted that on the American side, an interchange has been built, but conversations with federal agents regarding the design of the port of entry are still on hold.
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