First day for new exit at the border brings some confusion, excitement

Traffic

SAN DIEGO — Thursday was the first day of a new location for the last U.S. exit before the border in Otay Mesa, a source of confusion for some but also anticipation for a new port of entry in the region.

The Siempre Viva Road off-ramp on state Route 905 is now a half-mile east of its old location, after crews worked through the night into early Thursday morning. Caltrans moved the ramp to help pave the way for the new state Route 11 toll road and Otay Mesa East Port of Entry, slated to open in 2024.

That means travelers who don’t want to cross the border into Mexico will have to exit a half-mile earlier than before — though there’s still a dedicated U-turn lane in the median if they mistakenly pass the off-ramp and are approaching the border crossing. Some drivers interviewed by FOX 5 Thursday thought that U-turn area was due for some extra use.

“I think they’ll definitely be confused,” said Adam Palafox, who was passing through the area on his way to work nearby. “They should put some kind of flashing lights or something right before, to kind of give you a heads up that you can’t get in over here anymore.”

“I got a letter from the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce telling us yesterday that it was the last day,” Palafox explained. “I remembered as I saw it coming.”

“I did see a lot of people go the wrong way towards Mexico and (they) had to hit the last U-turn and come back out,” he added.

Confusion aside, local businesses hope that the coming port of entry will help more people cross from Tijuana into San Diego — and more quickly. Earlier this summer, officials said more than $500 million had already been invested in the project, with a total of about $1 billion estimated for the facility on both sides of the border.

It’s promised to be a “21st Century border crossing” with systems designed to reduce traffic congestion, electronically collect tolls and offer other “state-of-the-art” features.

“It’s the future,” Javier Ramirez, who owns the El Guero 2 restaurant nearby, said Thursday. “It’s better for everybody, so I think it’s good.”

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