CALEXICO â€“ In an effort to urge Congress to appropriate $248 million in funding to complete Phase II of the Calexico West Land Port of Entry Reconfiguration and Expansion project, State Sen. Ben Hueso held a press conference accompanied by other community leaders Friday at the downtown West Port of Entry.
â€œWe need to continue to push for infrastructure improvements in our ports of entry,â€ said Hueso. â€œBy expanding Calexicoâ€™s Port of Entry, we as Californians have a greater opportunity to improve our economic prosperity and success. These enhancements will broaden our options and will transform the way we travel by making it more convenient, fast and accessible.â€
President Obamaâ€™s Fiscal Year 2017 budget included $248 million of final funding needed to complete the Calexico West Land Port of Entry (CWLPE), however the funding awaits the approval of federal lawmakers.
â€œItâ€™s important that this allocation stay in the budget at the federal level. Itâ€™s important that we support our Congressman Juan Vargas in his important work to make sure that this project is funded and completed,â€ said Hueso. “Many people in our community know how important border crossings are for Californiaâ€™s economy. We have studies that show reducing border wait times increases our economy by up to $2 billion annually.â€
According to Hueso, no other investment in our economy can yield such a high return as reducing border wait times along the border.
â€œThis port of entry is very important to California, itâ€™s very important to Calexico and itâ€™s very important to Imperial County,â€ he said.
Recent studies show approximately 11,000 vehicles cross through the CWLPE daily.
Joining Sen. Hueso was Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, District 1 Supervisor John Renison, District 5 Supervisor Raymond Castillo, Calexico City Mayor Joong S. Kim, Brawley School Board MemberÂ Rusty Garcia, and Tomas Oliva, representing Congressman Juan Vargas.
In March, Hueso and Assemblymember Garcia co-authored and introduced the Senate Joint Resolution 22 (SJR 22), which urges Congress to appropriate $248 million in funding, as proposed by President Obama.
Senate Joint Resolution 22 has bipartisan support and is currently on the Assembly Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy Committee.
Garcia has said aside from expected economic benefits, fully funding the port expansion project will also result in public health improvements.
â€œWe must also highlight the importance of reducing emissions here on the border and improving the publicâ€™s health of those who live here in the adjacent areas of our Mexican border,â€ said Garcia. â€œIt is extremely important that this expansion take place, not only to continue to build on the California/Mexico economy and its import/export relationship that is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, but improving the border wait times that will definitely have an enormous impact on the public health and well-being of the people.â€
Phase II will ensure completion of the project, which will improve domestic supply chains, strengthen national security, reduce the portâ€™s carbon footprint, and facilitate economic growth, not only for the Imperial County and California, but for the entire nation.
Referring to the collaboration of Hueso, Vargas and Garcia as the â€œperfect storm,” Renison said â€œwith their efforts we are sure to get Phase II funding.â€
â€œWe have been living with these problems for over ten years,â€ said Renison.
â€œThe county of Imperial is united and feel this is one of the biggest problems and one of the biggest opportunities for Imperial County because the more traffic comes in, the less emission,â€ said Renison. â€œWe get penalized all of the time because of the air quality in Calexico, because of the border wait times, thatâ€˜s why itâ€™s so bad. The efforts being put forth now by at a federal level by Congressman Vargas with the support of the Assemblyman and the Senator, we feel that this is going to be a â€˜perfect stormâ€™ because everything is coming together.â€
The project will include additional site-work, an expanded pedestrian processing facility, administrative offices, and six additional northbound Privately Owned Vehicle (POV) inspection lanes.
The existing CWLPE was built in 1974 and is the third-busiest land port in California. The port processes about 15,000 – 20,000 northbound vehicles and 20,000 northbound pedestrians daily.
Castillo pointed out the urgency of replacing the port and said it is in bad shape.
“I worked at the port during the early 1980s and know it is in dire need of replacement. This port is outdated,” said Castillo. “I am glad that the federal government recognized that.”
Kim said with everyone’s support, the funding would soon become available benefiting the Valley’s economy.
Thomas Oliva said Congressman Vargas is working diligently to secure the funding while advocating for the Imperial County community.
Additionally, Oliva said not only does the Congressman have support from Imperial County leaders, but Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon also support the endeavor.
â€œWith SJR 22, we hope to add the entire California state legislature to that list,â€ said Oliva.