By HERIC RUBIO, Staff Writer  February 12, 2014

CALEXICO — With San Diego’s San Ysidro Land Port of Entry receiving $226 million in federal funding for improvements in the 2014 fiscal year budget, state representatives are beginning the process of ensuring the president includes similar funding for Calexico’s downtown port of entry.

In a letter to President Barack Obama dated Feb. 10, California Rep. Juan Vargas, joined by Reps. Susan Davis, Scott Peters, Raul Ruiz and Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, urged that he “include Phase 1 of the Calexico West Land Port of Entry reconfiguration and expansion project” in his fiscal year 2015 budget request.

The representatives’ letter to the White House explains that the current port of entry has been in existence since 1974, and between pedestrian and vehicular traffic, handles more than 36,000 inspections on a daily basis.

“The existing facilities are undersized relative to existing traffic loads and obsolete in terms of inspection officer safety and border security,” states the letter.

Apart from being physically inadequate, Calexico’s downtown port of entry is also costing the state loss in revenues.

A 2007 study by the Imperial Valley Association of Governments found that California businesses lost an estimated $436 million and 5,639 jobs that could be directly attributed to long border-crossing wait times.

“Modernizing the Calexico West LPOE is essential to improving the economy of the entire Southwest region and the nation by strengthening our trade, commerce, and security along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Vargas in a press release accompanying the letter.

At an estimated cost of $100 million, the first phase of expansion and renovation would consist of 10 northbound privately owned vehicle-inspection lanes, a headhouse and sitework necessary to accommodate those facilities.

While the same request had been made, and ultimately not granted, for the 2014 fiscal year budget, Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Renison explained that with the representatives’ support, there is a much better chance of receiving the funding this time around.

“That’s how they did it in San Ysidro,” he said, “so we’re elated that this is how it’s going along.”

Renison went on to say that even with the support of congressional representatives, the county is still looking at other viable options for funding, such a private-public partnership, in case the budget request falls through.

“We need to not put all our eggs in one basket,” he said. “We’re being cautiously optimistic.”

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