Advocating for a secure, reliable, and efficient border, the Chamber aims to enhance cross-border commerce which benefits communities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. We strive to be a connector and advocate for trade and recognize the critical role that efficient border infrastructure plays in increasing our region’s global competitiveness. The Chamber’s top border infrastructure priorities and accomplishments are listed below.
Otay II Mesa East Port of Entry
The Otay II Mesa East Port of Entry is a binational project which will contribute to significant economic growth for our region and stimulate binational trade by providing secure, reliable, and predictable crossings with a goal of waits no longer than 20 minutes. This will advance binational trade and increase production sharing with more efficient supply chain linkages between manufacturers and the market. In addition, the project comprises a commercial vehicle enforcement facility and state-of-the-art Intelligent Transportation Systems concepts and technology. Border crossers will be informed about toll rates, wait times, and special lane conditions at the major ports in the San Diego-Baja California region allowing for advance planning. The toll road collection will serve as the backbone for financing the project. Potential public-private opportunities exist to provide value-added amenities to enhance operational efficiency. In 2019, construction began on the last segment of SR11 and southbound connectors. The design and construction of the Otay II Mesa East Port of Entry is expected to begin in 2022, to be completed and operational in 2024/2025. A coalition of binational stakeholders from the private and public sector, including the Chamber, joined efforts to urge the Mexican Federal Government to advance the project on the Mexican side of the border. As a result, Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transportation appointed a right-of-way negotiator and a project manager in 2020, who will take the lead in the coordination of all government agencies involved and supervise the construction and operation of the port of entry.
Otay Mesa Port of Entry
The Chamber successfully advocated for the expansion of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry, California’s busiest commercial truck border crossing which processes 90% of the state’s exports to Mexico – over $18 billion in exports in imports in fiscal year 2019. Yet our region is far from reaching its full economic potential. The expansion project will help facilitate trade and commerce in our region to reduce inefficiencies in commercial traffic that currently cost both countries a combined $7.2 billion in lost economic output and more than 62,000 jobs every year. The $137.2 million project is scheduled to be completed in spring 2021 and includes the expansion of northbound commercial truck inspection areas, additional lanes at the pedestrian inspection facility, and the construction of visitor parking and employee parking structures.
San Ysidro Port of Entry
Our region is also home to the busiest land port of entry in the Western Hemisphere: the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The Chamber successfully advocated for the SYPOE modernization and expansion project completed in 2019 that now helps process more than 70,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians traveling northbound each day.
Calexico Ports of Entry
Processing 4 million northbound vehicles and 4.8 million northbound pedestrians annually, the Calexico Ports of Entry (Calexico East & Calexico West) represent a critical economic engine for the Calexico-Mexicali region. In fact, more than 25,000 pedestrians and motorists travel across every day and combined travel across the two ports makes it the third busiest land port of entry in California. The West Port of Entry is also currently undergoing a modernization project to facilitate traffic and reduce congestion at the port. Upon completion in 2023, the Calexico West Port of Entry will feature multiple updates: a new administration building; increased vehicle secondary canopy inspection areas from nine to 16; increase of northbound vehicle lanes from 10 to 16; five new southbound vehicle lanes, inspection booths, and canopy area; and a secure employee parking area. The Chamber has supported this project and helped secure funding for the port’s expansion and improvements.
Unified Cargo Inspection Program
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) partnered with Mexico’s Servicio de Administracion Tributaria (SAT) to conduct joint cargo inspections to reduce waiting times at the border. The Unified Cargo Inspection Program kicked off as a pilot program in 2017, successfully enhancing national security for both countries while demonstrating their shared commitment in facilitating cross-border commerce. The Chamber advocated for the expansion and permanence of the program, which was recently codified in the new trilateral agreement, USMCA.
The Chamber has also recognized the critical need of the reestablishment of a functional Cross-Border Railway for the region’s economy. Rail capabilities will reduce commercial truck congestion, air pollution, and travel time both increasing and facilitating the transportation of goods. Maximizing resources for this railway will undoubtedly result in a large economic boost and strengthen our region’s position as a competitor in the global market. The Chamber has facilitated cooperation between the city, state, and federal governments on both sides of the border in addition to the private sector representatives and lobbied key government officials on behalf of the cross-border railroad which facilitated significant steps toward the rehabilitation of the entire Cali-Baja rail system. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Pacific Imperial Railroad and Baja California Railroad in 2015, and a concession payment was made in 2017 to confirm the ownership of the Desert Line, connecting San Diego with Plaster City passing through Tijuana and Tecate, in México. The Desert Line will increase competitiveness of the region while facilitating integration with the regional border development.
Trusted Traveler Program
Additionally, the Chamber strongly encourages the creation of a consolidated North American Trusted Traveler Program to facilitate cross border travel and commerce. These programs allow expedited processing into the United States for pre-approved, low risk travelers through dedicated lanes and kiosks at ports of entry and airports. Depending on individual interests and activities, the Trusted Traveler Programs allow members to travel between the U.S. and Canada (NEXUS); into the U.S. from Mexico via land (SENTRI); import commercial shipments between the U.S./Mexico or U.S./Canada quickly (FAST); or travel internationally and move quickly through CBP processing (Global Entry). As a result of ongoing advocacy, CBP announced the expansion of Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival to a list of international airports including the San Diego International Airport, enabling conditionally-approved applicants to complete their interview while clearing CBP processing. In addition, new vehicle approvals for current SENTRI/Global Entry users no longer requires a physical inspection of the vehicle, expediting the process.