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OTAY MESA, Calif. — The Otay Mesa East Port of Entry project on State Route 11 is one step closer to completion, with a billion dollars already spent on what will become one of the most innovative border crossings in the U.S. 

“It’s going to include a border wait time system for the entire California-Mexico border, where people are going to be able to see what the border wait times are at all the ports of entry, and then decide if they want to pay the toll to cross at this port of entry that is going to guarantee a wait time of 20 minutes,” Caltrans District 11 Director Gustavo Dallarda said.

When it’s scheduled to be complete in 2024, the port of entry will help alleviate several issues as it relates to border crossing – economic, environmental and security. 

“Because there are millions, billions of dollars being lost in economic loss because of the border wait time for the trucks that are waiting by the border and those trucks are also generating emissions that are not good for the environment,” Dallarda said.

Monday’s summit included high-level federal and state officials from the U.S. and Mexico as well as business stake holders from the private sector.

“If you look around, you see the incredible growth happening out here and, in many ways, we have to get the border infrastructure in first before the buildings are finished and before all the land gets gobbled up in different ways,” said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who is also the Chair of the San Diego Association of Governments.

Before the pandemic, 22 million pedestrians, 31 million personal vehicles and 1.4 million commercial trucks on average crossed the border each year. So while the new port will help with economic development, it will also help with the negative impacts that contribute to climate change. 

“We have a lot of emissions that are produced by idling at the border, so having trucks and cars pass without sitting there spewing emissions will also be good for climate change,” Blakespear said. “This is also making sure that our road conditions function in a better way so that we don’t redo as much emissions and then of course is driving climate change.”