Each day, more than 136,000 cars and 6,200 trucks, and nearly 340,000 people, travel between the United States and Mexico via the San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, and Tecate border crossings making the San Diego-Baja California point of entry one of the busiest in the Americas.
Estimates are that this traffic will at least double in the next 15 years. Possible remedies to help handle all this vehicle and pedestrian traffic include a new, toll-oriented Port of Entry in East Otay Mesa for expedited crossing; the introduction of new technologies to educate travelers on delays and offer alternatives; and improvements to the existing ports of entry.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), in partnership with Caltrans, has launched a first-of-its-kind study to assess the economic impacts of border delays on the regional economy. The findings should enable officials on both sides of the border to make more informed regional decisions related to transportation, land use and planning, housing, commerce, and the environment.
Officials already agree that delays at the border have some level of impact on the regional economy. “Delays hinder the number of people crossing to spend money, and support local business and tourism,” said SANDAG Chief Economist
Cox. “Our research indicates that workers who experience significant delays may still cross the border but will work fewer hours thereby negatively impacting productivity.” The survey information, when fed into an economic model, should provide a much more detailed understanding.
At a recent news media briefing, SANDAG presented some key findings from the initial data collection phase of the study. This survey of 3,600 individuals has yielded some interesting results as to why people cross the border and their intended destination; how long they expect to wait; how much they spend per trip; and their willingness to pay a toll for an expedited crossing.
For example, of those questioned, nearly 60 percent would be willing to pay a $3.00 toll if a quicker crossing in Otay Mesa-Mesa de Otay were available. “This was a very interesting finding,” said SANDAG project manager Elisa Arias. “It opens the unique possibility of using private funds to facilitate crossborder travel in a time when public funds are very scarce.”
For more information on the study, go to the SANDAG Web site's Binational Projects page.