The New Virginia Avenue PedWest port of entry from Tijuana into the U.S. opened Friday, July 15, at about 12:20 p.m., only 20 minutes behind schedule. People lined up in Tijuana for over an hour to use the new temporary pedestrian bridge there, which has access from the old First Street (“Articulo 123”) pedestrian bridge over the Tijuana River.
PedWest also has a new Metropolitan Transit System transit facility, the Virginia Avenue Transit Center, on the U.S. side. There is even a bus and trolley pass vending machine, although trolley access requires a bus trip to the San Ysidro trolley station, about a quarter-mile away.
There are problems with access to this new facility on the Mexican side because there are no roads leading to the temporary scaffolding walkway. It is at the top of a pedestrian bridge and connects only by pedestrian sidewalks. No bus or taxi can get within a few blocks. The new temporary walkway consists of scaffolding that moves around a lot under the weight of those crossing and is over a quarter-mile long; it would make using a walker or wheelchair nearly impossible.
Concerns were raised as to the safety of this new, temporary pedestrian “tube,” both from a structural perspective and regarding the possibility of people being trapped inside and needing medical attention. Significant improvements were made and now there are access points and elimination of the steel screening that was originally higher, which made it more like a cage than a fence. It is too narrow to accommodate more than one lane of pedestrian traffic, so there is no way to have separate lanes for the general public, Linea Sentri permits, handicapped, and Ready Lane access. The inability to take a bus or taxi (or car) to the access point, however, is its biggest flaw.
Port director Sydney Aki said, “We are all happy and elated to have this new PedWest port of entry, another economic engine for business, providing better access to the United States.” Asked if he had seen the difficulties on the Mexican side, he said that he had not, and that subject would be best taken up with Mexican authorities. Construction of a new, permanent walkway is taking place, but mostly just beginning.
(corrected 7/25, 6:40 a.m.)