New port of entry in Douglas nearing reality

Elected officials and citizens in the southeastern Arizona city of Douglas have pined for years for some much-needed infrastructure improvements to the Raul H. Castro Port of Entry. Not only are traffic volumes an issue for the border town, but the entire port facility has been in need of updates to handle more trade flow and visitors coming through from Mexico.

A feasibility study from the U.S. General Services Administration highlighting the need to update the port to increase its processing capability is expected to be released next month. The study received U.S. congressional support last year and in April the Arizona Department of Transportation added its support as well.

Annually, about 8 million people cross on foot and another 3.3 million cars drive through the port of entry, resulting in an estimated $4 billion in economic activity for the state.

The Douglas City Council and the Cochise County Board of Supervisors recently approved a proposed location for a new commercial port of entry in the area. Support from city and county officials is for a location at James Ranch Road, located about seven miles north-by-northwest of the Castro POE.

The proposal for a new port is a years-long effort to build an entirely new port of entry instead of just connector roads that offer some relief in traffic. The new port is projected to supply more economic help to the state and regional economies. The current port serves as the gateway for both commercial and passenger vehicles, and with wait times currently expanded from minutes to hours, and even overnight wait times, the need is even greater.

Much of the port’s increased congestion is due to the growth of both mining in Mexico and the maquiladora industry, which has brought many more large trucks through both cities.

A new commercial port, along with a new lineup of connector roads, would ease that congestion and provide the right support to trade heading north to places like Tucson and Phoenix.

According to supporters of the new port, the proposal for a POE would bring in a stronger relationship with the state’s greatest trading partner, Mexico, and subsequently more industry, more people and investments into new trade partnerships in the area around the port.

“Infrastructure needs for the new port and the light industry, which will develop around the port, need to be studied for effective implementation,” Cochise County Supervisor Ann English said.  “Cochise County has agreed to [commission a] study and work with Douglas and investors for financing the needed water, sewer, roadway and utility improvements. We envision a new port that has the latest technology and utilizes the method of dual inspection which will save time and manpower while detecting contraband goods. A quicker safer port will protect and serve both countries.”

Currently, semi-trucks that cross through the middle of the border town usually carry a mix of usable public-facing supplies such as produce, but can also bring in hazardous materials. A new port of entry would split that up, separating risky materials from those that come in contact with the general public as commercial traffic would be redirected away from the city.

“Funding for the ‘Two Port Solution’ will depend on the federal budget,” English said. “All of our Congressional delegates have shown their support to include this project in the budget. The government in Mexico has stated the ‘Two Port Solution’ is their choice and they have a commitment from the landowner in Mexico for access and location of their port at the same location. No documents have been signed on either side, but we are very hopeful at this time.”

The new port would sit at James Ranch Road and connect to Highway 80. The General Services Administration would oversee the funding of the port of entry, as well as building the connector roads that feed the flow of traffic. The next step is to secure congressional funding of the project itself.

Nick Esquer

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