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Leaders from both sides of the border celebrated on Tuesday improvements at the commercial truck processing area of the Otay Mesa border crossing as part of an ongoing expansion project.

The number of lanes available to process cargo trucks entering San Diego from Mexico has increased from nine to 16, as a $134 million expansion and modernization project continues. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2023.

Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show an increasing number of cargo trucks crossings at Otay Mesa.

In the 2019 fiscal year, 958,766 cargo trucks were processed at Otay Mesa. While the number dropped to 907,545 in 2020 amid the pandemic; in 2021, it rose to more than 1 million cargo trucks.

Those trucks imported more than $37 billion of goods in the fiscal year 2021 at what is considered California’s busiest commercial truck crossing, according to officials.

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“This port is a regional economic engine, facilitating trade with Mexico, the United States’ largest trading partner,” said Commissioner Nina Albert with the General Services Administration’s Public Buildings Service.

Last year, the port processed more than $50 billion in imports and exports, she added.

The improvements in the commercial crossing could not have come at a better time, said Alejandra Mier y Terán, director of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce.

“The supply chains are changing, and we have more essential manufacturers in Baja (California) and Otay. We have more import and export food-related products crossing through our border, and e-commerce is booming in this region,” Mier y Terán said.

“So, what better timing to add commercial truck lanes than now,” she said. She predicts this expansion project, together with a second border crossing at Otay Mesa, will reduce wait times and accommodate the “growth that we’re seeing and the growth that is yet to come.”

A separate project is under way to build the Otay Mesa East port of entry, also known as Otay II, which is slated to be completed by 2024, or even ahead of time if possible.

Consul general of Mexico in San Diego, Carlos González Gutiérrez, said the increasing trade flow between the two countries reflects “how deeply integrated our economies are.”

“These trucks that bring products from Mexico to the United States … trigger economic transactions that directly or indirectly employ millions of people.”

Rep Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, said “the next thing we really need to fight for is more staffing.”

Other improvements that have been made as part of the Otay Mesa expansion project are the construction of a commercial annex building, as well as the relocation of the enrollment center for border-crossing Trusted Traveler Programs (SENTRI, Global Entry) and the processing of the I-94 permit office.

Both offices are within walking distance of their former location at the Otay Mesa border-crossing facility.

As part of the next phase of the project, construction is under way to double the number of pedestrian lanes from six to 12 to improve processing capacity.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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