EL CENTRO – Jeff Kinsell, Safer Communities Foundation, proposed the supervisors endorse a private/public corroborative effort with the Federal GSA concerning improvements to the Calexico area Land Ports of Entry for pedestrians.
Imperial County has been actively engaged with the government for years to improve the pedestrian and vehicle traffic lanes and to open more commercial lanes at the East Port.
Plans are finished with proper engineering and preparatory work, however, during budget negotiations funding has been zeroed out for the Calexico Port of Entry improvements.
A coalition of businessmen and local government agents hired a lobbyist group in Washington D.C. to break through the impasse with the GSA. Freeing border crossings is vital for the environment, economic vitality, and border security of the Imperial Valley. Many pedestrians wait for hours to cross to shop or work. The delay hurts our economy and those stuck waiting in the hot sun.
A proposal put forth to bypass the traditional procurement process is a private/public endeavor. This approach has been done successfully before with the GSA but never on a border port.
The GSA has a two-pronged approach to the Calexico ports of entry. They have plans to spend $350 million on widening all methods of entryways within ten years of the project starting.
According to Victor Carrillo of Calexico, in reality the port at San Ysidro is number one on the GSA’s list with Calexico being either #2 or #3 of the government’s priority.
By engaging the GSA in a private/public partnership, they plan to gift the needed funds of $ 2-3 million to work on the pedestrian crossing. According to Carrillo, this lets the federal government realize the Valley means business and is willing to put money up to get the project started.
The private money is not secured but the coalition speaking in front of the board didn’t think it would be hard to finance. Possibilities included bonds, agricultural benefit money, and private investments. A pay lane was suggested that could eventually pay back the private dollars. Kinsell opined that many businesses would gladly pay the card fee to allow easy access to border crossing for their employees.
Carrillo told the board that 11,000 people cross the border daily at Calexico, with their being seasonal differences.
Another reason the coalition wants to jump start the port project is too add another leg to the improvements. The GSA doesn’t have more commercial lane additions at the commercial East Port in their drawings, but the GSA has been receptive to the talks of doubling the commercial lanes open and creating a pay lane there also, according to Kinsell.
Kinsell and his group believe by gifting the money to GSA that is necessary to double the pedestrian lanes from 6 to 12 will create a win/win situation with the local community, businessmen, agricultural interests, and the federal government.
The board voted 5-0 to show support through a letter to the GSA of the public/private financing.