Earlier this week, a project to improve the San Ysidro Port of Entry got a $200 million-plus boost, thanks to a new spending bill passed by Congress.
This project will create jobs, grow our economy and reduce inefficiency — which is why it has been at the top of our personal priority lists, and was rated by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and SANDAG as the most important project for our region.
We need more like it happening around the country.
Gone are the days when we could think of San Diego as its own economy, separate from our neighbors across the fence. We live in a bi-national mega-region that is increasingly diverse and sophisticated. San Diego’s economic growth will be best served if Tijuana’s economy grows as well, and vice versa.
According to a SANDAG report, Mexico is California’s largest export market, purchasing $26.3 billion worth of state exports in 2012.
SANDAG also estimates that inefficiency and hours-long wait times at the border cost our bi-national region an estimated $7.2 billion in lost economic activity and 62,000 jobs annually. That’s not the kind of economic enhancement that we can afford to be missing out on.
The scale of the problem is significant: If average wait times were to increase by just 15 minutes, $1 billion in productivity and 134,000 jobs would be lost.
Mexico stepped up and completed its part of the San Ysidro crossing two years ago. The funding in this week’s package will increase the number of lanes on the U.S. side while also making the connection to the El Chapparal section of Mexico’s lanes. This is long overdue and a welcome relief to anyone crossing the border in either direction, at what is the world’s busiest land crossing.
The environmental benefit of moving this project forward cannot be overlooked. Given that the crossing processes an average of 50,000 northbound vehicles daily — a figure expected to increase by 87 percent in the next 20 years — any reduction in wait time means a significant reduction in emissions from the cars, buses and trucks idling for hours as they await inspection.
It is clear that getting this project funded and underway will be a boon for the region. While congressional gridlock has prevented much of anything from happening in Washington in recent years, it is our hope that there may finally be a crack in the ice.
The omnibus package to fund the government through the end of September, as well as December’s two-year budget deal, is by no means perfect, nor did either include everything we would have wanted.
But getting the funds to move San Ysidro’s projects forward is something to be proud of, and shows what can happen when San Diegans work together with common purpose.
This is a big win for our regional economy and the people of San Diego. We will be working to make sure it’s just the first of many.
Clarification: This post has been updated to better reflect the amount of money allocated to San Ysidro. The new spending bill allocates $128.3 million, and directs more than $97 million from other sources.
Scott Peters represents the 52nd District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Coronado, Poway, and large portions of the City of San Diego. Juan Vargas represents the 51st District, which includes the southern portion of San Diego County, all of Imperial County and California’s entire U.S./Mexico border. This commentary has been lightly edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.