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.

Commentary - in-story logoThis 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.

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

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.

    This article relates to: Border, Border Connectivity, Border Crossing, Infrastructure, News, Opinion, Regional Planning

    Written by Catherine Green

    Catherine Green is deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handles daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects. You can contact her directly at catherine.green@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. Follow her on Twitter: @c_s_green.

    Cindy Conger
    Cindy Conger subscriber

    An airport, a real airport, at the center of our county will 'fund' any airport and a host of other infrastructures that San Diego is missing.  The Federal Gov't. will pay for "any transportation to and from surrounding cities" (BBilbray-twice while in office), including transit hubs from 18-yes, 18 cities in SD county. Perhaps our 'local' connected to this endeavor is senile & being taken advantage of?  Give more high paying jobs to Mexico...is that OK with all of these government officials?  We are the Only major metropolitan airport in the World to have such a dangerous airport and literally the Worst Transportation System.

    Cindy Conger
    Cindy Conger subscriber

    What a scam.....why aren't we looking at establishing a stable revenue for our own county, instead of attempting to include a foreign country's labor force that's been sucking our own resources dry (schools, hospitals, traffic accidents, police, drugs, etc.) for decades?  Why are we even letting a multi-billionare from Chicago consider transporting our Air Cargo operations, and thus, a $100 million+/yr. in stable revenues to a Foreign country?  That's what the 'Crossborder Cargo Bridge'  to TJ's Rodriguez Airport is planning for...get a clue, folks.

    Jim Jones
    Jim Jones subscriber

    Let's be clear what this is about, it's about businesses wanting a cheap workforce, able to live in TJ at TJ cost and work in SD at wages that undercut our local SDUSD edumicated menial labor pool.


    Come on people, the problem has never been getting in to Mexico, it is getting out. What a joke indeed.

    Don Blucher
    Don Blucher subscriber

    As a native San Diegan with a spouse who was raised in Tijuana, I am overjoyed to finally see some movement out of the politicians on OUR side of "The Fence". 'Bout time.... When I was young, one could cross without delay. Now, it is a major undertaking just to see family, visit friends, or attend a Quinceañera. Making the trek to enjoy one of Tijuana's great restaurants is now a whole-day event.
    It would serve all our Politicos well to acquaint themselves more fully with and develop better relationships with their counterparts in Mexico. Until recently, we San Diegans have not given our friends to the south the adequate respect that their DISCRETIONARY dollars spent in our economy deserve. Our two economies and cultures are something to be nurtured and promoted.

    Grammie subscribermember

    @Cindy Conger  But just think of the increased revenue for our trolley!

    David Crossley
    David Crossley subscriber

    It appears that getting out of Mexico for many wasn't a problem.