A binational, multi-agency oversight committee – created under a memorandum of understanding signed last June between California and Mexico – has begun working on policy solutions and key milestones that will advance the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry (POE) Project.
Last month, members of the committee – representatives from the California State Transportation Agency, Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation, and SANDAG – convened for the first time. During the November 19 meeting, stakeholders agreed to explore options for early right-of-way acquisition on both sides of the border for the proposed POE. In addition, they set a goal to reach a consensus in the coming months on the revenue projections for the proposed toll road associated with the new border crossing.
Designed to reduce border congestion and wait times, the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East project will feature a new four-lane tolled highway, a commercial vehicle enforcement facility, and a new POE. The first segment of State Route 11, which started construction in December 2013, includes connectors to State Route 905 plus a stretch of new highway from State Route 905 east to Enrico Fermi Drive. SANDAG and Caltrans, in partnership with their Mexican counterparts and other key stakeholders, are formulating a plan to finance this new border crossing with a combination of tolls and other funding sources.
The project is the result of collaboration by a number of key local, state, and federal agencies in both the United States and Mexico, including the General Services Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, Mexico’s Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, and Mexican Customs/Aduanas.
New momentum is building to get the project done. On July 30, 2014, highlighting the importance of goods movement and international trade, State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly signed a MOU with Raúl Murrieta Cummings, Undersecretary of Infrastructure for the Ministry of Communications and Transportation, to resolve policy issues and review major milestones through the ongoing development of the project.
“The fact that Mexico is entering into an agreement with California to improve our shared port of entry reflects the important role of international trade and commerce between California and Mexico,” California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian P. Kelly said in July when executing the memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Transportation of the United Mexican States. “This partnership between Mexico and California will help strengthen our land connection and the tens of billions of dollars in commerce that flows through our mutual border.”
Congested border crossings between the San Diego area and Tijuana cost the U.S. and Mexican economies billions of dollars in economic losses every year. In addition, border congestion is also detrimental to air quality.
The State Route 11/Otay Mesa East POE project will be built in three phases. The first segment, now under construction, will build a stretch of the freeway from SR 905 east to Enrico Fermi Drive and the State Routes 905 and 11 freeway-to-freeway connectors, linking the future port to the rest of the highway system.
Segment Two will extend State Route 11 from Enrico Fermi Drive to Siempre Viva Road and include a new Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility (CVEF). The entire length of the highway will be 2.5 miles. Segment Three will build the new Otay Mesa East Port of Entry.
Future plans call for toll roads approaching the border crossing – allowing travelers the opportunity to pay a fee to get to the border more quickly, drastically reducing the lengthy wait times they currently endure.
Caltrans is the lead agency for the planning, design, and construction of the toll road portion of the project. SANDAG is the tolling authority, and is also spearheading the design and construction of the POE.