Border Wait Relief

Tucson Region
Lukeville crossing set for two more lanes
By Howard Fischer
Arizona will spend $1.5 million to construct more lanes at the border crossing at Lukeville to help prevent Arizonans from having to wait for hours trying to get back into this country after visiting Puerto Peñasco.
Members of the state Transportation Board approved the funding at their meeting Friday. Doug Nintzel, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said the board wants to increase the number of vehicles that can be processed at the often-crowded port of entry.
The funding, though, is contingent on private firms coming up with $1 million. But Gov. Janet Napolitano told Capitol Media Services she has been assured that companies in Puerto Peñasco — better known as Rocky Point — want to expedite the flow of tourists and goods and are committed to providing the money.
Friday’s vote comes as Napolitano met with Luis Tellez, Mexico ‘s communications and transportation secretary, to try to get his government to come up with funds for improvements at border crossings on the other side of the line.
“We need to improve port infrastructure to facilitate the legal movement of goods and people,” the governor said after the meeting in Ciudad Obregón , Sonora . She said Tellez agreed the traffic jams that often tie up cars and trucks for hours harm both countries.
“Our economies are being hampered,” she said.
And Napolitano said that while Tellez did not commit to providing a specific amount of money, he told her these projects were an objective of his government.
The governor said the ADOT funds will finance two new lanes on top of the existing four on the U.S. side, one of which is dedicated for commercial traffic.
She said, though, that the ADOT money, even if matched with private dollars, isn’t the total answer, as additional lanes won’t mean anything by themselves.
“I’m not interested in putting money in unless the federal government will staff them,” she said. Napolitano said her next job is persuading the federal government, which operates the port, to put money into the budget for the necessary employees.
Beyond that, Napolitano said she wants the border station open 24 hours a day, at least during peak traffic periods. Now the station is closed from midnight to 6 a.m.
The governor said the new lanes are the second part of a three-pronged effort to eliminate the backup on the Mexican side of the border.
Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed to direct motor homes and vehicles towing trailers into the commercial lane, at least on Sundays and Mondays. That should make the crossing faster for those in passenger cars.
Napolitano said the entire port of entry, about 100 miles southwest of Tucson , needs to be reconfigured to ease the flow.
Napolitano’s trip to Mexico also produced a new agreement with Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours to work together to lure new firms to the area.
Napolitano acknowledged making that happen, though, has potential political pitfalls.
“I need to be doing things that create and hold jobs in Arizona ,” she said. And Napolitano said that, from a pure cost perspective, a company that wants to build things will find that labor is cheaper in Mexico .
But the governor said a case can be made for having operations in both states.
“Certain kinds of jobs are better situated in Arizona ,” she said.

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