U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) opened a 22-lane pedestrian border crossing Wednesday at the busiest land port in the country to reduce traffic congestion.
The “PedEast” crossing at San Ysidro port in California is part of a $741-million project meant to reduce wait times for the 20,000 pedestrians and the over 70,000 vehicle passengers who cross the border daily. Construction started in 2011 and was estimated to finish in 2019 with a custom house and vehicle inspection stations, the Times of San Diego reported Wednesday.
“This new facility is going to greatly improve the traveler experience and provide more streamlined crossing to and from Mexico,” San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said, according to the Times.
Ten of the 22 lanes will initially operate to observe traffic flow and determine where resources need to be allocated, according to San Ysidro port Director Sidney Aki, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
While the initiative was supported by both Democratic and Republican politicians, there were still concerns about having enough CBP staff to operate the lanes as the port has faced staff shortage in the past. San Diego CBP director of field operations Peter Flores said the port has improved staffing, getting close to reaching the necessary number of agents, according to the Tribune. (RELATED: New San Diego Border Wall Under Construction, Includes ‘Anti-Climbing Plate’)
“It is unfortunate that the new PedEast pedestrian entrance … will not be able to open 22 lanes because Customs and Border Protection doesn’t have enough employees,” President of the National Treasury Employees Union Tony Reardon said to the Tribune. “This is a classic example of how the agency-wide staffing shortage … affects international trade and travel.”
The National Treasury of Employees Union represents CBP employees.
Congress approved funding from the Department of Homeland Security to employ 375 new CBP officers so far.
Faulconer, along with Democratic Rep. Juan Vargas, several members of the San Diego Congressional delegation and Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum Buenrostro were responsible for securing federal funding for the initiative.
A 14-lane border crossing, “PedWest,” was opened at the same port in 2016, the Tribune reported.
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