The newly opened border-crossing facility dubbed El Chaparral opened its 22 gates to the full flow of Mexico-bound vehicle traffic on Friday, November 1, and motorists were forced to endure “embotellamientos” (traffic jams) in various parts of the system for up to three hours. The transit time for many was two hours, on average.
Friday is typically a day of heavy traffic, with a rush hour starting around 4:00 p.m. and lasting several hours. Southbound traffic in the U.S., on I-5 and 805, was also backed up; a Mexico-bound motorist claimed a back-up of two to three miles on U.S. highways converging at San Ysidro.
Tests run throughout last week, which allowed small streams of traffic to enter the system, hinted at a smoothly functioning apparatus, despite motorists’ unfamiliarity with the new pattern and structures. Mexican officials said additional signage would rectify some of the confusion that occurred at critical junctures.
However, larger systemic deficiencies were revealed Friday, as traffic backed up across the first Tijuana River bridge, immediately south of the inspection station, diverting traffic toward the Rosarito-Ensenada road and Las Playas de Tijuana, where a bottleneck developed at the western convergence point. Vehicles were bumper to bumper all across the new bridge, where the scene looked more like downtown San Francisco or Los Angeles during rush hour. Two other bridges crossing the river further south were thick with traffic as well.
Road-widening construction was under way at the western terminus of the gracefully curved bridge, in an effort to resolve the erratic entry onto the Rosarito-Ensenada road.
Tijuna’s daily Frontera quoted irate and at times dumbfounded motorists, some of whom felt that the 500-million-peso project did little to ameliorate the wait, and at this point, seemed to exacerbate it.
City officials and civil engineers are viewing Friday’s fiasco as an object lesson and are pondering revisions and potential solutions, hoping to attain the goal of a 20–30 minute wait for motorists during rush hour.