June 6, 2019 1:15 PM, EDT

GSA to Assess Environmental Impact of Proposed Border Facility Project

Calexico East Port of Entry in Calexico, Calif.Calexico East Port of Entry in Calexico, Calif., by Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg.

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

The General Services Administration intends to study the environmental impact of a project that would involve the construction of inspection facilities geared toward truck and bus traffic moving across the U.S.-Mexico border.

The project, a partnership with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, proposes constructing six inspection facilities at five different land ports of entry (LPOE) in California and Arizona. GSA published its notice of intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in the Federal Register on May 23.

LPOE-2019-10783 by on Scribd

“FMCSA’s mission is to ensure that commercial vehicles entering the United States and traveling on our nation’s roads are operating safely,” an FMCSA spokesman said in a statement to Transport Topics. “In support of this mission, FMCSA and GSA have partnered to develop a program of projects at a number of land ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border at which FMCSA agents can safely and effectively inspect both commercial truck and bus traffic.”

The five land ports of entry listed in the Federal Register document are: San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, Calexico East, San Luis II and Nogales Mariposa.

The proposed project stems from funding FMCSA received in 2018 to design and construct facilities that allow their officials to better inspect trucks and buses moving across the border. The FMCSA spokesman confirmed that no truck or bus inspection projects are under consideration for land ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border.

“FMCSA inspectors currently inspect both bus and commercial truck traffic at multiple LPOEs along the U.S.-Mexico border in both California and Arizona at facilities that were not built for their needs and at sites which do not allow for thorough, safe inspection of vehicles,” the Federal Register document states.

Trucks cross border at Calexico, Mexico

Trucks cross into the U.S. at Calexico, Calif. (TT File Photo)

According to the Federal Register document, the project proposes constructing a new truck inspection facility at the Otay Mesa LPOE, which is located along state Route 905 in San Diego. The proposed facility, located on a site that already is linked to the port of entry by a frontage road, would have an inspection canopy with a pit and an administration building for FMCSA officials. GSA spokesman Andra Higgs explained that inspection canopies and pits allow officials to examine the undercarriages of vehicles while protected from the elements.

Otay Mesa is a popular crossing point for truckers. The Otay Mesa LPOE processed 81,217 trucks in March, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

The truck inspection facility proposed for the San Luis II LPOE would be constructed on the northern edge of the checkpoint’s property line. The project would involve clearing the existing site, paving a truck path and relocating the U.S. Customs and Border Protection impound lot. The San Luis II LPOE is 20 miles south of Yuma, Ariz., and cleared 4,511 trucks in March.

The project also will consider a truck inspection facility just north of the Nogales Mariposa LPOE, which is 140 miles west of the New Mexico border. Work would involve clearing the site, paving a truck path and erecting an inspection canopy. Nogales Mariposa is an important point of entry for freight; 35,398 trucks passed through it in March.

Mariposa Land Port of Entry in Nogales

Mariposa Land Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz., by Bill Timmerman for Jones Studio Inc.

Two inspection facilities, one for trucks and one for buses, have been proposed at the Calexico East LPOE, which is about 45 miles west of the Arizona border. These proposed facilities also would include inspection canopies and FMCSA administration buildings. Calexico East processed 34,447 trucks and 105 buses in March.

The agencies also are considering building a bus inspection facility at the San Ysidro LPOE, which is in San Diego, about 9 miles west of Otay Mesa. The proposed project would clear the existing single-story facility, pave the bus path, realign the parking lot and access points to the site and construct an inspection canopy. San Ysidro, which does not process trucks, cleared 3,329 buses in March.

The Environmental Impact Statement will assess three options for construction: a “preferred build” alternative, a “smaller footprint” alternative and a “no action” alternative. The smaller footprint options are scaled-back versions of the projects outlined in the Federal Register document. The no action alternative assumes that no new facilities will be built on any of the sites and that FMCSA operations will continue under current conditions.

GSA will host four public “scoping meetings” for the Environmental Impact Statement in the waning weeks of June. Members of the public may submit comments to the agency by July 11.