SANDAG Executive Director Addresses House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee during Infrastructure Week
WASHINGTON, DC - Addressing the House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Executive Director Gary Gallegos testified to the economic importance of cross-border trade and on the unique financing approaches being explored in the San Diego region to develop infrastructure needed to safely and efficiently move people and goods across the U.S. – Mexico border.
Gallegos, a Member of the Coalition for America’s Gateways & Trade Corridors Board of Directors (the Coalition), represented both SANDAG and the Coalition at the May 18 hearing titled, “Border Station Construction: Minimizing Costs and Leveraging Private Dollars.” Pointing to the mounting importance of bi-national trade, Mr. Gallegos testified that steadily growing traffic volumes, constrained infrastructure, and limited staff capacity at existing land Ports of Entry cause significant delays at the border, and have led to negative economic impacts. Illustrative of this, a SANDAG study found that border traffic congestion and delays between San Diego County and the Baja Peninsula cost the U.S. and Mexican economies an estimated $7.2 billion in gross output and more than 62,000 jobs. That is a monetary loss equivalent to 18 Super Bowls and an annual job loss equivalent to four companies the size of Google.
To address this, in conjunction with partnering state, federal and Mexican agencies, SANDAG is developing the Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry, two miles east of the existing Otay Mesa Port of Entry. Given limited federal resources available for this nationally and regionally significant project, SANDAG has developed an innovative funding and financing proposal to pay for the facility and in 2015, the project was accepted into the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC).
Mr. Gallegos highlighted the newly-created freight-specific FASTLANE grant program as an important resource for projects like the Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry. “The FAST Act is a down payment on our infrastructure needs, but much more is needed in order to keep pace with growing trade trends and maintain and improve aging and insufficient infrastructure,” Mr. Gallegos testified. “A failure to invest hinders the efficient movement of goods and people, resulting in increased transportation costs and reduced air quality. A concentrated effort to improve border facilities, personnel, and information technology will improve goods movement and ultimately, U.S. economic competitiveness.”