SAN YSIDRO (CNS) - The government of Mexico is pressing ahead with plans to relocate its border station at Tijuana in October, but the U.S. government has no reciprocal plans to move Interstate 5's connection to hook up with the new Port of Entry to Mexico, it was reported Saturday.
The normal construction and congestion at the busiest border crossing in the world may turn to chaos this fall, when drivers in five southbound lanes will face the first part of a tight, Z-shaped turn just inside Mexico, a temporary road that jogs a quarter mile to the west, and then navigate the second sharp five-lane turn to access the new border gates.
About 35,000 vehicles cross the border in each direction each day, and the wait to get into the U.S. can top four hours, backing up far into Tijuana's overburdened streets and its small freeway.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has made it a goal to widen the northbound waiting area by relocating the southbound port of entry about a quarter mile to the west, next to the Tijuana River. But plans to build a new connection from interstates 5 and 805 to the new Mexican port of entry have not been approved by the U.S. Congress.
The federal government of Mexico has invested $28 million in its new, state of the art Port of Entry, called "El Chaparral."
"Leaving the current port open is not an option," said Sean Carlos Cazares Ahearne, a Mexican Foreign Ministry official, in an interview with UT San Diego. "We will begin operations as soon as the port is finished in October."
On the U.S. side, construction is well underway on a $583 million makeover of the northbound Port of Entry, which will effectively double the number of northbound inspection gates, to 48.
Business owners north of the line fret that the eventual solution will be relocating the southbound freeway to directly connect Interstate 5 to El Chaparral along what is now Virginia Avenue, a small street lined by the El Mejor Shopping Center and other businesses.
Plans to shift traffic via the Z-shaped detour are opposed by Baja California tourism and business leaders, who feel it is yet one more impediment to the rebounding tourism to Tijuana and beaches to the south.