Environmental analysis ignores southbound booths.

A coalition of San Ysidro businesses and community groups says it cannot support the US plan to remodel the San Ysidro Port of Entry in part because the environmental impact report does not address the potential effects of southbound inspection booths on the US side.

The booths, which will be placed on US land in each of the six southbound lanes headed into Mexico, were added to the remodel plan about six weeks ago, shortly before the Government Services Administration (GSA) issued its environmental review of the whole project.

Jason Wells, San Ysidro Smart Border Coalition director, says the project has been on the drawing board for 15 years, this iteration of the plan for four. “You can’t just throw in something of that magnitude. Either you put in southbound inspection’s impact, or you don’t include southbound inspection facilities.”

Those facilities will include one quarter the number of lanes that currently head north from Tijuana to San Diego. Headed northbound, traffic jams average an hour and a half to two hours during peak wait times. Wells says, “If you do any kind of inspection southbound for the same number of cars, but in just six lanes, then you start creating something along the lines of four times the wait time.”

However, it’s not clear how US authorities would perform southbound inspections.

Anthony Kleppe with GSA says that’s precisely the problem. “The reality is, until we know what that protocol is and what the timing of that protocol would be, it is difficult for us to really assess what kind of impact that process is going to have on the environment and on things like traffic and air quality.”

Kleppe says there was little focus on screening cars headed into Mexico until Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the border about two months ago. She pledged to crack down on arms and cash being smuggled south to Mexico in part by inspecting cars at the border for contraband.

The GSA published its environmental assessment of the San Ysidro Port of Entry remodel project 45 days ago. Monday was the last day to respond.

GSA’s Kleppe says they’ll consider people’s concerns during the next two weeks. He says construction could begin this December.


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