Business Leaders, House Dems Urge for Border Funding

Budget battles that have nearly immobilized Washington have also obfuscated critical funding for the massive renovation of the world’s busiest border crossing in San Ysidro.

When President Barack Obama sent Congress his proposed $3.8 trillion spending blueprint, he included the money needed to fully fund the next phase of the San Ysidro Port Expansion Project.

The deal reached and applauded Wednesday in the Senate also includes the $226 million needed to complete Phase 2 and 3 of the unfinished expansion project. However, the House version does not include the money.
Until now, the GOP-led House and Democratic-led Senate have been unable to agree on spending levels, which led to the 16-day government shutdown in October. The agreement reached Wednesday will allow the House and Senate Appropriations committees to move forward on the annual 12 spending bills that fund the government's discretionary spending, but the funding for San Ysidro Port Expansion Project remains unclear.
That's why a coalition of business leaders and House Democrats from San Diego issued a letter to the House Appropriations Committee this week urging project be funded.
Among those leaders is former mayor Jerry Sanders, now CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, who says the funding is essential to the local economy.
"Everything's tight right now in the federal government, but we've already spent $292 million doing the first phase and we need to get the second and third phases done," Sanders said. "Mexico completed their entire port of entry in 2012. We have to mirror that and what that does is that brings about $7.2 billion more into the region when you have quicker times crossing that border."
If Congress decides to fund the rest of the project, the General Services Administration (GSA) would have money for Phase 3 construction costs and could fund site acquisition for both Phase 2 and 3.

An estimated 50,000 cars move northbound through the port of entry from Tijuana into San Ysidro every day.

In Phase 1, an east-west pedestrian bridge, a southbound pedestrian crossing and reconditioning 24 single inspection lanes to 25 double inspection lanes Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE are complete. Ongoing work for metal and cable shading for the 25 lanes and a new head office building is included in Phase 1, according to Jason Wells, head of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.

California-bound car lanes will grow to 16 from 10, and each lane will have two inspection booths instead of one, for Phase 2. Phase 2 also includes a pedestrian plaza near the trolley station and a complete reconstruction of northbound pedestrian facilities, according to Wells, who is extremely familiar with the project.

Phase 3 would expand southbound lanes and improve a western pedestrian crossing, as well as realigning 1-5 to lead into El Chaparral, the completed Mexico project.

Local lawmakers Juan Vargas, Scott Peters and Susan Davis also wrote letters urging for the funding and highlighting the economic impact of longer border wait times.
"The economic impact of long border wait times is staggering. Every minute a car or truck sits idle waiting to cross the border represents lost revenue and jobs for our economy," the letter states.
A 2007 SANDAG study estimated that delays due to border wait times cost cross-border economies more than 62,000 jobs.
Peters indicated that getting the Appropriations committee to issue funds for project remains an ongoing battle.
"We know the money is authorized. There's money authorized, but now what has to happen is you have to get the Appropriations committee to write the check for our project and that's where we're going to need some help," Peters said.
"We've got the business community behind us. We're expecting help from our two Senators and we're hoping that the whole Congressional delegation can come together and help push forward this important project," he said.
"This is the one thing we as San Diegans should ask the federal government to help us with," Peters added. "This piece of infrastructure is so important to border trade for job creation, especially in San Diego, but throughout California and really the whole country."
The office of Congressman Duncan Hunter did not respond to a request for comment and Rep. Darrell Issa could not immediately be reached for comment to say whether they would join other San Diego leaders in requesting the funding. 
Congress will reconvene on Jan. 6 for its second session.
Contact Us