Construction begins on border wall prototypes

SAN DIEGO – Months after President Donald Trump's campaign promise to build a “big beautiful wall,” construction of eight border wall prototypes began Tuesday just east of the Otay Mesa border crossing.

"We are committed to securing our border and that includes constructing border walls. Our multi-pronged strategy to ensure the safety and security of the American people includes barriers, infrastructure, technology and people,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Deputy Commissioner Ronald Vitiello. “Moving forward with the prototypes enables us to continue to incorporate all the tools necessary to secure our border."

All eight prototypes will be between 18 and 30 feet high. Four will be made of concrete, while the other four will be constructed of alternate or “other materials,” CBP officials said.

The top designs for a concrete wall came from four companies: Caddell Construction Co (DE), LLC, of Montgomery, Alabama; Fisher Sand & Gravel Co., DBA Fisher Industries, of Tempe, Arizona; Texas Sterling Construction Co., of Houston, Texas; W. G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

The prototypes will "help us create a 'design standard' for operational walls," CBP said. "The new designs would be added to our menu of existing designs, and allow us to tailor a specific wall design to the unique demands of individual areas of the border."

The money for the process came from $20 million that Congress authorized the Department of Homeland Security to pull from other places in the budget earlier this year. Congress has not yet authorized any further money to actually build new miles of wall.

Each prototype award will be worth roughly $400,000 to $500,000, Vitiello said.

Prototypes were selected "based on their abilities to meet the requirements in the proposal," he said in August, and once the prototypes are built, they will be evaluated for their effectiveness in a real-world environment. CBP could ultimately use all or none of the wall types along the border, Vitiello said, in addition to existing bollard fence designs that are used on the "immediate border."

Vitiello emphasized that CBP is looking for a "more holistic view" on border security, including cameras, sensors and an enforcement zone in the wall plan. Vitiello showed diagrams of plans for border solutions in both urban and rural areas, which included a "see-through" design, usually a bollard fence, along the immediate border, a zone for enforcement, and then a secondary barrier with the cameras and sensors. The concrete proposals are largely for that secondary barrier, Vitiello said.

"All those things have to be combined in the proper mix to make it work," Vitiello said, saying each location will be evaluated for the different options.

The prototypes are expected to take about 30 days to complete and the evaluation process will take roughly three months.