Traffic Flows Smoothly at Damaged Border Crossing

Drivers should expect an easier commute

Border Crossing Accident

On Sunday officials said that all lanes would be available as well as a lane for processing bus traffic at the San Ysidro border where a scaffolding collapse injured 11 people Wednesday.

Overnight on Saturday California Border Patrol officials opened the three additional lanes northbound at the San Ysidro port of entry for vehicle processing.

CBP officials have been working with officials in Mexico to cocoordinate the re-openings at the nation's busiest border crossing.

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On Thursday, only a day after the accident, traffic flowed smoothly during morning's rush.

Earlier in the week, travelers said many commuters decided to stay home in Tijuana, Mexico, when faced with the prospect of nightmarish waits at the San Ysidro port of entry to San Diego. To their delight, they found waits were about half the usual time.

Nicolas Gonzales, 25, of Tijuana, set his alarm for 5 a.m., a half-hour early. He crosses daily and usually waits an hour to walk across daily on his way work at a Taco Bell in suburban Chula Vista. He got through in about 30 minutes and used the extra time to join friends for breakfast.

"Normally, I'm running to get to work on time," said Gonzales, who declined his supervisor's offer to miss work without pay. "Today, it's been very relaxed."

Victor Rodriguez, 47, was prepared to skip his workout before his shift as a bus driver for the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. He found himself with enough time to get to his San Diego gym and run an errand.

"The people who cross for pleasure didn't come, only the people who had no choice," said Rodriguez, who read a newspaper as his 1991 Toyota Corolla inched toward an inspection booth.

All U.S.-bound traffic was halted Wednesday after scaffolding installed to protect cars from overhead construction collapsed onto eight lanes, leaving a mess of wooden planks, metal supports and black tarpaulin atop 15 vehicles that had just passed through inspection booths.

A construction worker was seriously hurt, said Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. Ten others were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, including a pregnant woman, he said.

Three people had to be extricated from cars, Luque said.

Pedestrian lanes reopened after eight hours and 13 of 24 U.S-bound vehicle lanes reopened at midnight. Mexico-bound traffic was never interrupted.

The General Services Administration, which owns the ports of entry, was assessing the integrity of the remaining scaffold before deciding when San Ysidro's remaining 11 vehicle lanes.

About 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians enter the United States each day at the San Ysidro crossing, a bulk of them headed to school or work in the San Diego area. They include many U.S. citizens who live in Tijuana to be with family or because housing costs are much lower.

Heightened security since the 2001 terrorist attacks has accustomed motorists to commutes of longer than two hours. Pedestrians can wait more than an hour.

During Thursday's rush, motorists waited about an hour and pedestrians were idled for 15 to 30 minutes.

The breezy commute was bad news for Tijuana street vendors hawking cotton candy, chips and oatmeal in Styrofoam cups to idled motorists. Workers who normally hustle through traffic relaying orders by walkie-talkie for cappuccinos and "bionic burritos" found business unusually slow.

Jorge Aleman, 18, usually calls in orders for 120 burritos to a nearby food stand each morning but found only about 50 takers Thursday.

"People got scared and stayed home," he said.

The cause of the scaffolding collapse is under investigation. The San Ysidro border crossing facility is undergoing a $577 million overhaul by Hensel Phelps Construction Co., based in Greeley, Colo.

Copyright NBC San Diego / Associated Press.

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