Federal pilot program may reduce border wait times
POSTED: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 10:18pm
UPDATED: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 11:48am
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — For commuters who cross the border each day, or even those who cross occasionally, long lines and wait times are common, and can be a nightmare.
"Time on the bridge in this season is like 3 hours maximum, if you pay. If you go on the free bridge, it's sometimes 4 hours," said traveler, Rosario Zaragoza.
But according to lawmakers, travelers may soon have some relief thanks to a federal pilot program.
"We've talked to Washington, CBP, and we're going to set the guidelines and parameters and move forward so we're going to try and move as quick as we can, and to make sure we get it rolled out because it's important to cut down those wait times," said El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser.
The City of El Paso is one of five border cities chosen by the federal government to participate in a partnership with US Customs and Border Protection to shorten border wait times.
Under the program, tolls at the border will go up from $2.50 to $3.00, and a percentage of that revenue will be used to pay more CBP officers to work longer hours during peak travel times.
Additional lanes on the bridges will also be opened and staffed.
"This is really the result of the community's advocacy and we understand how important those bridges are to our economy, to creating jobs, and improving the quality of life in El Paso," said Congressman Beto O'Rourke.
But some are skeptical of the project.
Rosario Zaragoza travels to Juarez 3 to 4 days each week for work and doesn't think the solution to long border wait times is to hire more CBP officers.
She said long border wait times have been an issue every since she can remember, and in 2001, when officials added more lanes to the bridges to help solve the problem, nothing got better.
"Sometimes when you're crossing, you see on the other side of the bridge, like 12 officers standing there doing nothing. So, those officers could be opening those lanes that are closed. So, I don't see the difference that they want to hire more officers when they have the staff there," she said.
El Paso is the second-busiest land port of entry in the United States.
Each year, more than $90 billion in trade passes through the Sun City and Mexico.
O'Rourke said he expects the pilot program to go into effect in October 2013.