Even though demolition at the San Ysidro Port of Entry will be closing as many as five re-entry lanes at a time in the next few months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Thursday that traffic may actually flow faster through the busiest border crossing in the Western Hemisphere.
Traffic will be “channeled” into fewer lanes, the pace shouldn’t slacken because Customs will be opening additional inspection booths at each gateway to process two vehicles at a time. The so-called “stacked booths” are being used at other border crossings according to officials and have proven efficient.
San Ysidro is undergoing a massive, three-phase, $577-million reconstruction which requires the contractors to tear down existing structures that sit directly over the top of the 24 lanes of wall-to-wall, bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Since June, the Colorado-based Hansel Phelps Construction Co. has been “surgically” dismantling the sprawling administration complex above the traffic. Central to the process is a towering yellow crane that dominates the border landscape.
Starting at the end of August through Thanksgiving, the project enters a particularly tricky phase as remaining shell of the building must come down. To accomplish this, processing booth areas will be closed off as each section is torn down, affecting up to five lanes.
When it comes to figuring out which lanes are functional, Customs and Border Protection will try to remove the guess work for border travelers. A traffic engineer in Tijuana has been contracted to design a strategy for channeling vehicles to the “stacked booth” gateways.
By the end of August, Customs will have operating 10 gateways with “stacked booths” to process two vehicles simultaneously.
When completed, the reconfiguration and expansion of San Ysidro will have 62 northbound inspection booths, expanded processing facilities, a dedicated bus lane and express lanes for the “trusted traveler” programs – SENTRI and Ready Lane vehicles.
This first phase is fully funded and is on track to be completed by the summer of 2014, officials say.
The second phase, which includes the construction of the new administration building and pedestrian route and Phase 3, the realignment and expansion of I-5 south with expanded capacity and a transit center on the Mexican side of the border are as yet unfunded.
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