Delinda Lombardo 6:30 p.m., Oct. 17
Congressmembers Vargas, Davis, Peters push for San Ysidro border funding
Representatives Scott Peters and Susan Davis are maintaining high profiles around town, appearing this morning with Rep. Juan Vargas in San Ysidro to advocate that funding be allocated to improving the border crossing and continuing to fully staff the existing infrastructure there.
The push for funding isn’t new, as Bob Filner had been asking for money to complete a revamped border crossing before taking over the mayor’s office, leaving his congressional seat to be filled by Vargas.
In 2011, the U.S. and Mexico agreed to revamp the border crossing, with a goal of reducing average border wait times to 30 minutes or less. Mexico completed its new southbound crossing last year, expanding the number of inspection stations from six to 22. Northbound, the U.S. plans to increase from a current 24 inspection lanes to 62, though the expansion isn’t expected to be complete until late 2014.
The increase in northbound lanes, along with a now-complete pedestrian bridge and new southbound pedestrian crossing, make up Phase 1 of a three-phase project. While Phase 1 is fully funded, funds have not yet been identified for Phase 2 (a new administration and pedestrian crossing building) and Phase 3 (installation of 12 U.S. staffed southbound border inspection stations).
“The United States and Mexico agreed to this project because we recognize the role the San Ysidro port plays as an engine for economic growth on both sides of the border,” said Peters who, along with Vargas, has contacted President Obama urging that funds to complete the revamp be included in his 2014 proposed budget.
Decreasing wait times is “not just a border issue,” said Vargas, “it’s a California issue.” His speech focused largely on looming sequestration cuts that will take $512 million from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection budget.
“Sequestration is going to be a terrible situation here. It’s going to bring real suffering . . . you’re going to see four to five hour waits and that is absolutely intolerable.”
Davis said that time spent waiting in border lines had a massive negative effect on the region’s productivity, costing jobs and money.
“Every car that sits idle and every person that stands in line for hours to get across the border represent lost opportunities to grow jobs and raise economic growth,” said Davis.
James Clark of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and Lauree Sabha with the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation joined the congressmembers, echoing the sentiment that improved crossing times would have a significant economic effect.
“Even with the delays, Tijuanans spend more than $6 billion a year in the San Diego economy,” said Clark, citing figures released by the UT San Diego. “At a time when we’re coming out of a recession, we cannot delay that.”