SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — It was supposed to be done by the end of 2024 and considered the most innovative port of entry along the southern border, but its planned unveiling has hit snag as some of its funding remains stuck in Congress.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem building it out,” said U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-California.
Vargas represents California’s 52nd Congressional District, which includes San Diego where the port of entry is to be built.
The roadway leading to the proposed border crossing is nearly done, and grading for the port of entry is underway, but work on the buildings and other structures has yet to begin.
“We have a bunch of budget problems in Washington no doubt about that, but the operational money is going to be the hardest money to get at the end of the day,” said Vargas. “I do think we’re going to get capital money and it will give us the ability to build the facility.”
But the congressman worries that even when it’s built, it may not open.
“The hardest part is how do we staff it and that’s what really keeps me up at night. It’s going to be awful; we build this thing and we can’t open it up because there’s no staffing.”
Vargas was referring to what he calls the inability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to recruit officers to its ranks.
“This has been going on for years. The truth of the matter is they’ve had a hard time hiring people. They have the willingness to do it, but they haven’t been able to do it — they’ve thought about lowering their standards, but we’ve said that may not be the best idea.”
Vargas also stated another potentially humiliating situation would be having to answer to Mexico if the U.S. side of is not done on time.
Crews in Tijuana have been working on the project for the better part of 2023 including the construction of a viaduct, an elevated roadway that will connect to the port of entry.
Mexican officials, including President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have said they will be done on schedule.
“It would be the first time Mexico did something that we didn’t, it would be entirely and awfully embarrassing.”
Both countries agreed to finish the crossing by the end of 2024, but according to Vargas and others familiar with the project, it’s likely not going to happen and they expect it to open in late 2025.
Otay Mesa East will have 10 northbound lanes for both passenger cars and commercial trucks.
What will make this port of entry unique is that a toll in each direction will be required, with the money to be split between Mexico and the U.S.
It will be the third port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego.