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San Luis to ask government to open commercial border crossing to all vehicles
SAN LUIS, Ariz. – San Luis wants to let private vehicles enter and leave Mexico through the city's commercial port of entry as a way to ease congestion to reduce traffic lines in the city's downtown.
The San Luis City Council this week approved a resolution asking the federal government to open San Luis Port of Entry II to all traffic, and the Mayor Gerardo Sanchez says the city will ask all other other cities in Yuma County to back the idea.
San Luis II, located off Juan Sanchez Boulevard on the city's east side, opened in 2010 to draw large tractor-trailers and other commercial traffic away from San Luis I, the existing border crossing in the city's downtown.
But in the years since, says Sanchez, the volume of commercial traffic through San Luis II has only reached 10 percent of that port's capacity, while the downtown continues to be congested as all other vehicles form long lines waiting to cross the border.
San Luis officials are proposing the federal government adapt San Luis II to be able to handle not only the commercial traffic but also crossings by up to 10 lanes of private vehicles.
The conversion would requirement an estimated expenditure of up to $10 million, Sanchez said, but the only other option for reducing congestion and wait times to cross the border is the existing plan to expand the downtown port at a cost of $200 million.
"In the federal government, they always talk about doing projects of high cost with large impact, and this is one of them," Sanchez said.
Moreover, he said, the enlargement of San Luis I has moved from No. 3 down to No. 11 on the federal government's list of highest-priority border crossing construction projects.
Owing to the federal shutdown, officials at the San Luis I said no one from U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be available to comment on the city's resolution.
Opening San Luis II to non-commercial traffic has been discussed as far back as 2011, Sanchez said, but approval of the resolution is the first step in formally presenting the proposal to the federal government.
He said San Luis will ask other local governments in the county to adopt similar resolutions, "because this is something that would benefit not just San Luis but the entire county and the entire state."
One proposal under consideration would be to charge a toll to private vehicles that use San Luis II to cover part of the cost of the conversion.
"That has been discussed," said Sanchez, "but we don't know how much would be charged. And we have insisted that the people have to get something in exchange for that payment, and it would be a faster crossing than through the regular lanes."
In any event, he said, San Luis II must be opened to non-commercial vehicles sooner than later, because downtown congestion due to cross-border traffic is a year-round problem, and not just at the height of winter agricultural season.