Border Carmaggedon

It’s Worse Than You May Think

You have all heard about the 57-hour south-bound closure at the Tijuana/San Diego border set for September 23, 3:00 pm, until noon on September 25. Hey folks, there’s more than meets the bumper, here. All south-bound traffic will be routed to nearby Otay Mesa that has only five to nine lanes open. Some of the heavy vehicle lanes will be used for passenger vehicles during this time.

Point of Inquiry:  When did any road project take less than three days to complete? It takes that long to get someone to pick up a run-down varmint on the freeway.

The third and final phase of the $740 million San Ysidro Point of Entry, and busiest land border in the world, concludes with this upgraded entry to Mexico. How big the upgrade is depends on whom you speak to. The American Consul General, while speaking to a group of Expats several weeks ago stated that the hard 110 degree right turn into the Chaparral crossing would be modified to a “softer, lazy S,” allowing for traffic to barely slow through the border approach. Representatives from INAMI informed another group of Expats that the turn would be lessened to a mere 90 degrees. What part of ninety degrees is soft or gentle? So the sharp right turn is changed to a standard right turn and that’s supposed to make traffic flow move smoothly? When was the last time you didn’t slow down to make a right-hand turn?

The main occurrence during the 57-hour shut-down will be the removal of the concrete lane dividers and the large canopy that spans across the roadway at that point.  For at least two months there will be a total of only three south-bound lanes at Chaparral. A fourth lane is planned to open near Thanksgiving.

Also planned for your protection are south-bound protection booths manned by US Customs and Border Protection. I can see this as useful during Amber Alerts and when bad buys are expected to be heading for the border, but wouldn’t CBP personnel be better put to use staffing our north-bound lanes? It was explained to me as the CPB “exercising their right…upon occurrence of a threat.”  A threat to whom? Mexico?

But the fun isn’t over on September 25. Currently there are four lanes of each the I-5 and the 805 that merge into the five or six lanes that turn into the Chaparral. While construction continues, there will only be a total of five lanes south-bound into Mexico. The “57-hour”  south-bound project is scheduled for completion in June of 2019, another 646 days (or 15,504 hours). And that’s IF the project ends on schedule.  When was the last road project completed as scheduled? Plan your border-crossings well, folks.

But there’s good news at the end of this “carmic”  rainbow. There should be ten south-bound lanes entering Mexico, diving into the 20+ inspection booths, which Mexico has promised would all be manned. And the US promises that eight additional north-bound lanes will be opened, making a total of 33 lanes. The problem here is that there are plenty of north-bound lanes with tandem booths that aren’t being staffed now, because, well, there are not enough border patrol officers. Although the hiring  thousands of additional border patrol officers has been approved, they are mostly for patrolling the entire southern border.

The project at its completion will include a complete “rebuilding” of the southern end of the I-5 freeway. It is needed, and long-awaited. It is going to be a major pain in the neck, but just remember how nice it will be when it’s finished…much like the cuota/free road intersection at the north end of Rosarito, or the overpass interchange between the McDonald’s and government building. Oh wait, that project hasn’t been completed yet.

For up-to-date information, check www.getyouhome.gov, or your “border wait times” phone app.

Ren Drake

Author: Ren Drake

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