According to a study, traffic gridlock at the U.S.-Mexico border directly impacts our economy and remodeling one of San Diego’s busiest border crossings could help add billions of dollars in lost revenue.
In an effort to shorten border crossing times, the federal government has pumped more than half a billion dollars into revamping the San Ysidro Port of Entry in south San Diego County.
Improvements include 25 northbound inspection lanes with the potential of 46 inspection booths open all at one time.
If border crossing times are reduced, experts believe billions of dollars in lost revenue could be added to both San Diego’s economy and Mexico’s economy.
A SANDAG study estimates border gridlock costs the U.S. and Mexico $7.2 billion a year.
"That's business that people don’t do because they decide not to go to the San Diego Zoo because the border wait is too long. Or people in San Diego are saying, I don’t want to go to wine country in Ensenada,” explained David Shirk, an associate professor at the University of San Diego who studies Mexico and border issues.
Shoppers at San Ysidro's popular Las Americas Premium Outlet are prime examples of how shortening border wait times could help stimulate economies.
Thanks to a pass allowing him speedy passage across the border, Tijuana resident Miguel Magana says he does his shopping for his wife and two kids in the United States.
Magana said he prefers to shop for clothes in the U.S. because clothing is of higher quality and much cheaper here.
By 2018, the U.S. General Service Administration is planning to add nine more lanes to the port of entry.
It's part of the $740 million upgrade project that could help bring increased traffic to businesses near the border.
“We don’t have a number,” explained Las America’s Premium Outlet General Manger Tom Fallon when asked if he’s expecting an increase in traffic.
“But, from an abstract viewpoint it’s going to create more free flow which will translate into more visits, we think,” he added.
Shirk said the added lanes are a significant improvement. The only problem is, they will need to be fully staffed to keep traffic flowing.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reportedly said the lanes will have maximum staffing during weekday mornings and Sunday afternoon.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the improvements at the border will deeply impact our local economy.
"The San Ysidro Port of Entry is key to the economic health of the San Diego region. I’m proud to support the construction of this facility that represents an important link to opportunity, employment and economic growth," Faulconer told NBC 7.