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First phase of San Ysidro border crossing expansion complete

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One of the largest construction projects in San Diego County is moving on schedule as the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry is under a $577 million expansion.

Currently the westward lanes are being demolished, vehicle traffic has been rerouted from the west through the center of the port, and temporary utilities and footings for new secondary inspection facilities are being installed.

Since the project’s ground breaking in February, demolition of the existing west secondary inspection facilities and utilities, relocation of secondary operations facilities and installation of temporary utilities has occurred.

In April, a new 806-foot-long pedestrian bridge was completed and opened for southbound pedestrians traveling from east of Interstate 5.

The new bridge will connect the existing transit plaza on San Ysidro Boulevard to the west side of Interstate 5 for pedestrians entering into Mexico.

Scheduled for the rest of this year is work to the existing administration building and pedestrian walkway over the current primary inspection lanes, as they will be demolished to start construction of new facilities while keeping the port of entry open, according to U.S. General Services Administration spokesperson Traci Madison.

All of this work is the first part of the three phase expansion project.

The rest of the first phase work includes installing three 100-foot iconic masts that will extend from a 780-foot canopy, which will cover lanes of traffic going into the United States.

The second phase will encompass construction of the northbound walkways and building, which will improve pedestrian inspection facilities with added booths.

Also in this second phase, the existing historic customs’ house will be renovated and used for Port of Entry operations and southbound pedestrian facilities.

In addition, a new public plaza will be constructed along San Ysidro Boulevard, connecting both north and southbound pedestrians to the trolley and other public transportation.

The third phase will include moving Interstate 5 westward to provide increased space for northbound vehicle lanes, expand southbound inspection facilities and connect to Mexico’s border crossing facility, El Chaparral Land Port of Entry.

Also, the final canopy mast will be constructed during phase three, along with nine additional northbound lanes for a total of 34, and a second pedestrian crossing for northbound and southbound movement will be built.

Mexico is also improving its border crossing facility by adding six lanes for a total of 12.

The border crossing is being renovated to create a more efficient and sustainable port of entry. The additional lanes will reduce wait times and the installation of several green amenities will make the project the first LEED Platinum certified border crossing by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The new facility will have photovoltaic panels, a solar hot water system, a geothermal heat exchange system, ultra-low flow water fixtures, landscaping with drought resistant plants and storm water capture for irrigation. It is estimated that 12 million gallons of water will be saved per year.

According to Miller Hull Partnership, a Seattle-based architectural firm that designed the project, wait times at the border crossing will be reduced from two hours to half an hour. This is based on computer modeling using projected vehicle and pedestrian data from the San Diego Association of Governments. URS Corp. is the construction manager on this project.

According to the U.S. General Services Administration, the expansion and modernization is being done to accommodate the 85 million travelers expected by 2030. Currently 30 million people travel across the San Ysidro Port of Entry annually.

If the $577 million project goes according to plan, the Port of Entry will be fully expanded, modernized and operational by summer 2016.

Funding for the modernization comes from the U.S federal budget. In 2004, $34 million was allocated; in 2008, $199 million was given; and in 2009, $59 million was approved.

So far, enough money has been obtained to complete the project's first phase, but phases two and three are still waiting for funding.

Martha N. Johnson, administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration, said phase two is part of President Barack Obama’s budget next year, but it hasn’t been appropriated yet and approximately $285 million is still needed.

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