The ravines surrounding the Mariposa Port of Entry in western Nogales have been filled to create more buildable land, and the second phase of the $213 million, four-year reconstruction of this port is under way.
Here's a look at where the project stands:
What work has been done so far?
During the first phase, crews filled in three ravines to the east, west and south of the port with 650,000 cubic yards of dirt to expand the port's footprint to 57 acres, up from 42 acres, said Tom Yearout, assistant director of capital improvements for U.S. Customs and Border Protection's field office in Tucson.
The second phase, which began in October, calls for building new inspection booths and lanes, Yearout said.
When this phase is completed late next year, there will be eight lanes for commercial trucks and six lanes for regular vehicles.
In total, the new port will have 21 lanes when the project is finished.
The plans also call for primary and secondary inspection areas for semis and noncommercial traffic, a new administration building, a pedestrian-processing facility and a new kennel for inspection dogs. The southbound inspection lanes will be larger and more equipped for officers to monitor outbound cars and trucks. The new port will be three times larger than the old one, Yearout said.
Have the plans changed at all?
Not much, but Mexico has agreed to build five additional lanes for commercial trucks on its side of the border, which will eliminate a bottleneck at the international line. When the project started, U.S. officials planned to have trucks come across the border in the three existing lanes and expand out to eight lanes, but now there will be eight matching lanes in Mexico, Yearout said.
Who's paying, and is the project within budget so far?
The $213 million comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package. The project is expected to come in under budget due to the downturn in the economy, which has resulted in lower bids from construction companies, said Gene Gibson, spokeswoman for U.S. General Services Administration.
Has the scheduled completion date changed?
No. The new port is still expected to be finished by spring 2014. Because it is a Recovery Act project, there is no wiggle room for missing the deadline, Gibson said. Yearout said that so far, the project is about where they expected it to be. "Overall, I would say we are doing reasonably well," he said.
What can travelers and truck drivers expect during construction?
Travelers will notice major construction work but shouldn't face extra delays. Customs and Border Protection officials have vowed to not close the port and are working with the GSA and the construction crews to ensure that traffic is not altered during the project, Yearout said. The construction schedule also calls for new lanes to be built before old ones are torn down.
What will the finished port mean for Southern Arizona?
When the state-of-the art port is finished, it is expected to pay immediate dividends for the Arizona-Sonora regional economy. The larger port should expedite the movement of people and goods across the border, which should boost cross-border business and encourage more tourism from Sonora, business leaders say.
Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or email@example.com