California and Mexico celebrate the start of construction of a second port of entry in Otay Mesa

Authorities from Mexico and the United States celebrated this Monday the start of construction of the anticipated second port of call in Otay Mesa, which is expected to start operations in 2024.

“Today we are laying the first stone, but what will really be innovative is the immense number of benefits that this project will bring: for mobility, economic development, the environment, and for people,” said the secretary of the Transportation Agency of California, Toks Omishakin, at a ceremony held on the US side of the build.

Contrary to other ports of entry such as San Ysidro, this new port of entry — with 20 years in the planning — will require the payment of a fee that will guarantee an average waiting time of 20 minutes.

The Otay Mesa East POE, also known as Otay II, will initially have ten lanes — five for passenger vehicles and five more for trucks — with the option of interchanging them depending on demand.

Recently, California authorities concluded the construction of a highway distributor that will connect the border region with the new port of entry.

With the operation of this third border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, peak delays at other ports of entry are expected to decrease by up to 50 percent, authorities said.

California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis said it is “one of the most important infrastructure projects for California.”

“In California we consider Mexico our most important and closest international partner,” he said.

Increased border wait times are estimated to cost the United States and Mexico together about $3.4 billion in economic output and more than 88,000 jobs each year, Kounalakis said.

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Kounalakis cited estimates from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which project that without a new port, wait times for cargo trucks could rise up to six hours by 2040. With the opening of the new port, those wait times will increase. would be reduced to 40 minutes, he added.

Catherine Blakespear, president of the board of directors of SANDAG, highlighted that this project will improve the quality of life of people on both sides of the border. “Right now there are delays of many hours for people to cross the border,” she reiterated. “(This new crossing) will allow people, goods and businesses to cross the border in an efficient way.”

SANDAG and Caltrans officials agreed that this would be the last border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana since there is no more room to build another.

“To the east we have the mountains, to the west we have the Tijuana River estuary,” noted Mario Orso, Caltrans deputy district director. “It would be very complicated in terms of impacts on the environment.”

Toll collection would be made once the inspection area is left on the US side. The proceeds will be divided between Mexico and the United States.

Although there is no official rate yet, Orso estimated that it could be between 5 and 20 dollars for passenger vehicles, and between 15 and 40 dollars for trucks. The cost will vary according to time and demand.

Distance view of the area where the Otay Mesa East POE will be built, located a few miles east of the current Otay Mesa POE

(Alexandra Mendoza/U-T)

The project also advances on the Mexican side

During his visit to Tijuana last Friday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador highlighted the joint work with the US government to carry out infrastructure projects that benefit border communities.

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Pablo Gálvez, director for Border Affairs in North America with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), indicated this Monday that the presidential instruction is to complete the construction works in December 2023 and deliver to the operators in 2024.

He added that they hope to have a date soon for the laying of the first stone on the Mexican side.

Gálvez estimated an initial investment by the federal government of 4.5 billion pesos (about 224 million dollars).

Mexico is committed to the project, advancing with the works that allow it to have the necessary physical spaces.

Sergio Franco Moreno, director of border projects with the Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation (SICT) of Mexico, shared that the necessary properties on the Mexican side have already been negotiated and released to start the road work.

Work is currently being carried out to relocate some high-voltage towers in the area. The works will be carried out by the Ministry of National Defense (Sedena).

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