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Pedestrians pass through the U.S. port of entry at San Luis, Ariz. The mayor of the Arizona border city says pandemic-related supply shortages have driven up the cost of a needed expansion of the port.

SAN LUIS, Ariz. – This city’s officials want the federal government to increase the budget for the planned expansion of the port of entry in San Luis to cover the rising costs of building materials.

The city is asking for $10 million above the $90 million increase it’s already seeking to the $152.4 million allocated for expansion and modernization of the San Luis I port of entry in downtown San Luis.

Mayor Gerardo Sanchez said he was recently told by the U.S. General Services Administration and the Department of Customs and Border Protection that the cost of expansion, like other construction projects, has been inflated by building supply shortages caused by the pandemic.

“Construction materials, especially wood, have increased as much as 40 percent, and that has impacted the estimated cost,” he said. “We will need more money than what we had thought it would take to do the complete project at the port of entry.”

The city has long sought expansion of the port to handle increasing flows of vehicles and pedestrians arriving to San Luis from Mexico. The Trump administration originally requested $248 million from Congress to pay for additional vehicle lanes and other improvements to speed the flow of traffic, but that request was reduced in the Senate in 2019 to $152.4 million. The city is seeking restoration of $90 million of the total amount cut.

But now the federal government needs to add still another $10 million to cover inflation, Sanchez said.

“We are insisting that those funds be in the package that the federal government proposes in invest in ports of entry,” he said. “Fortunately (the San Luis port) continues to be in first place in priority on the list.”

GSA issued the following statement concerning port expansion:

“Originally constructed in 1984, the San Luis I Land Port of Entry is now undersized for current privately owned vehicle traffic. In fiscal year 2020, Congress appropriated $152.4 million for the port’s modernization and expansion. This September, GSA expects to complete a master plan study for a two-phased construction plan for a new facility, and, in spring 2022, to award the Phase 1 design-build contract. GSA anticipates Phase 2 funding will be included in a future budget request. GSA will continue working closely with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the City of San Luis and other regional partners for this critically important facility.”

Recent years have seen not only lengthening lines of vehicles entering San Luis from Mexico but of automobiles headed in the opposite direction.

Sanchez said his city is joining with San Luis Rio Colorado in seeking a nearly $150,000, grant from the North American Development Bank to fund a study into relocating the Mexican port of entry and rerouting southbound traffic to ease bottlenecks in the Mexican border city.

The proposal calls for the Mexican port to be moved to the west to Morelos Street, with cars entering from the U.S. side of the border routed though an underpass at Obregon Avenue.

Money for the feasibility study was earmarked in the Sonora state budget two years ago, but then pulled and reallocated to other projects.

“For the (San Luis I) expansion project to be viable, we need for the project on the Mexican side to be assured,” Sanchez said. “We hope that, now the elections (in Mexico) are over, that it moves more rapidly.”

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