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Construction starts on SR 11 to ease border congestion

After more than a decade of planning, SANDAG and Caltrans broke ground December 10 on a major project to build critically needed border infrastructure – a new freeway and eventually a new port of entry in Otay Mesa – to cut border wait times and boost crossborder trade.

Estimated to cost $700 million to $750 million, the State Route 11/Otay Mesa East Port of Entry (POE) project is the result of collaboration by a number of key local, state, and federal agencies in both the United States and Mexico, including the General Services Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, Mexico’s Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, and Mexican Customs/Aduanas. Officials and elected representatives from both sides of the border attended the December 10 groundbreaking ceremony for the first segment of the project.

“This project is a shining example of productive partnerships on both sides of the international border as we continue to plan and implement transportation solutions,” said Caltrans District 11 Director Laurie Berman. “If it were not for the passage of Proposition 1B by voters back in 2006, this project would not be breaking ground today.”

Currently, all border crossings between the San Diego area and Tijuana are congested, with border wait times routinely exceeding two hours at the existing Otay Mesa and San Ysidro ports of entry. Border traffic congestion and delays cost the U.S. and Mexican economies an estimated $7.2 billion in gross output (value of goods and services produced) and more than 62,000 jobs in 2007 (the latest data available). The annual dollar loss is equivalent to 18 Super Bowls. In addition to economic loss, border congestion is also detrimental to air quality.

The SR 11/Otay Mesa East POE project will be built in three phases. The first segment, which starts construction this month, will build a stretch of the freeway from SR 905 east to Enrico Fermi Drive and the SR 905/SR 11 freeway-to-freeway connectors, linking the future port to the rest of the highway system. This segment will cost $112 million, with $71 million coming from the state’s Proposition 1B Trade Corridors Improvement Fund and $41 million from the federal Coordinated Border Infrastructure program. Coffman Specialties Inc. of San Diego is the contractor for the first segment, which is expected be completed in late 2015/early 2016.

Segment Two will extend SR 11 from Enrico Fermi Drive to Siempre Viva Road and include a new Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility (CVEF). The entire length of the highway will be 2.5 miles. Segment Three will build the new Otay Mesa East Port of Entry. The last two phases will be built as funding becomes available.

Future plans call for toll roads approaching the border crossing both north and south of the border – allowing travelers the opportunity to pay a fee to get to the border more quickly, drastically reducing the lengthy wait times they currently endure.

“This is a big step toward eventually building a fourth port of entry in the San Diego region,” SANDAG Chair and Santee Councilmember Jack Dale said. “The innovative new crossing will make it possible for commercial and private vehicles willing to pay a toll to get across the border in a secure way and quickly, cutting congestion and giving a big boost to our local and state economies.”

Caltrans is the lead agency for the planning, design, and construction of the toll road portion of the project. SANDAG is the tolling authority, and is also spearheading the design and construction of the port of entry.

Project Manager(s)

For media inquiries, please contact the SANDAG Public Information Office at (619) 699-1950 or pio@sandag.org.