Artist's rendering of completed San Ysidro Port of Entry. - U.S. Customs and Border Protection
A wide range of initiatives aimed at speeding up the passage of goods and people across the California-Mexico border were featured Wednesday at the Institute of the Americas on the University of California San Diego campus.
Among the proposals: increased segmentation of northbound traffic, a pre-inspection program in Mexico for U.S.-bound trucks, and enhanced California drivers licenses that would allow for faster processing of passenger vehicles.
The discussion was led by Institute president Charles Shapiro and two members of the Smart Border Coalition, co-chairman Malin Burnham and director James Clark. The 20-member coalition, started in 2008, is made up of business leaders from Tijuana and San Diego who are pushing for more efficient border crossings.
Burnham and Clark applauded existing programs such as the Sentri and Ready Lane that speed up border crossings for pre-screened passengers and those with approved U.S. travel documents. They expressed concern about the reconstruction of the San Ysidro border, a $577-million project that has been approved but not completely funded by Congress.
Without funding in the 2013 budget, "we're going to have the biggest mess in the world," said Clark, who is director of the Mexico Business Center of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
If a proposed cross-border air terminal gets approved and built, ticketed U.S. passengers will have their own pedestrian border crossing leading from Otay Mesa to Tijuana's A.L. Rodriguez International Airport, where they can board flights for Shanghai, Tokyo and destinations across Mexico.
Clark said the Tijuana airport could also soon be receiving cargo flights from Europe. A German carrier is looking to establish service to and from Tijuana, he said.