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More traffic lanes open at San Luis port
SAN LUIS, Ariz. — Motorists will have shorter waits to cross the border here, thanks to the opening of two new vehicle lanes at the U.S. Port of Entry, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
The new lanes, opened Thursday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, bring to 10 the total number serving motorists traveling from Mexico to this Arizona city.
In a 15-month construction project, the new lanes were opened in an area previously occupied by a landscaped median that served as a divider between lines of traffic entering the United States and those destined for Mexico.
The project, overseen by the U.S. General Services Administration, was wrapped up ahead of the area's agricultural season, when longer lines form on both sides of the border as farmworkers commute from their homes in Mexico and fields in Yuma County.
One lane will continue to be dedicated to motorists who are members of the SENTRI trusted traveler program, said Teresa Small, a CBP supervisor at San Luis.
The SENTRI program allows area residents who have passed background and fingerprint checks to make expedited border crossings using radio-frequency identification cards that they slide through card readers.
While the port now has 10lanes, not all will necessarily will be staffed and opened to motorists during slack periods when traffic lines are short, Small said.
“But whatever the traffic flow is, we will open as many lanes are a necessary” to move traffic and reduce wait times.
She said CBP estimates the additional lanes will reduce the traveler's average time to cross the border by up to 25 percent.
Among those attending Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony was U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, who said the addition of the two lanes is essential to improve trade between Yuma County and Arizona and neighboring Mexico.
Long waits at not only San Luis but along the rest of the border “has hurt commerce,” the Tucson Democrat said in an interview. “The opening of these lanes will begin to speed that up.”
With Thursday's lane openings, said Small, all available space at the port of entry is dedicated to lanes, and Grijalva said the crossing needs to be expanded in the future to handle what he believes will be a continued increase in traffic at San Luis.
In anticipation of a future expansion, GSA has acquired the nearby site currently occupied by the city's Friendship Park. When funding will be available for such a project, however, remains in question.
In late 2011, Grijalva introduced legislation to fund upgrades to ports along the border, including renovations to the San Luis port estimated to cost $80 million. That bill has stalled in the House of Representatives, despite having the support of chambers of commerce and border communities.
“I am very disappointed in the reluctance of the House leadership to allow it to advance,” he said. “This is not a bill that should be held up by the immigration fight. This is about commerce and trade.”