San Ysidro, California - Border-crossers walking into Mexico on Monday enjoyed an open and green new pedestrian plaza and walkway near PedEast at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
The makeover is the latest project completed as part of a major overhaul of the San Ysidro land border crossing with Mexico.
"I think it was really necessary," said Chula Vista resident Felipe Vivanco, who was walking across the border into Mexico to visit Tijuana on Monday. "I think it adds a little bit of beauty to this border crossing."
The new plaza and walkway is located on the southeast side of the recently opened PedEast facility and right off the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System trolley and bus station.
San Ysidro, the busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere, has been undergoing a massive $741 million modernization and expansion to process travelers quickly and securely.
San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce CEO Jason Wells said most of the upgrades to improve pedestrian border wait times have already been made, and future developments are aimed at improving the aesthetics and accessibility of crossing the border.
The new pathway is located southeast of the new PedEast facility, which opened in August, with 22 inspection lanes inside a structure with high translucent ceilings, tall doors and large windows. That building replaced the eight-lane temporary structure that had been serving those who cross on the eastern side of the port. It significantly improved northbound pedestrian wait times, going into the United States from Mexico.
Nearly three years ago, the new 14-lane PedWest facility opened. Both sides process northbound pedestrians.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry process some 70,000 northbound vehicle passengers and 25,000 northbound pedestrian border-crossers a day.
PedWest also has a place for pedestrians to enter Mexico, but it closes to southbound traffic at night. That crossing is near the Virginia Avenue Transit Center.
Another part of the multi-million, multi-phase expansion project involves realigning part of southbound Interstate 5 into Mexico's El Chaparral Port of Entry. The construction will expand the number of southbound vehicle inspection lanes on the U.S. side from five to 10, and from 10 to 19 at El Chaparral.
The first three lanes will open in mid-May, and the rest should be finished by the end of June. The entire project is slated to be completed in October.
Tijuana resident José Alfonso Espinoza Saldaña said the new pathway open Monday was much more appealing, pointing out the trees and the cleanliness.
"This has a much better ambiance," said Espinoza. "The old path was much longer too. When people are walking, and carrying heavy bags or items, it really makes a difference. It’s much easier to cross this way."
Both Republican and Democratic members of Congress in San Diego's delegation worked together to obtain the funding for the reconstruction of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Because the El Chapparal or PedWest southbound border crossing closes at 10 p.m., pedestrians traveling in San Ysidro late at night previously had to go to the PedEast side to cross into Mexico. The only path going into to Tijuana after 10 pm was a dark and winding path that might not have put first-time travelers at ease.
"This much nicer than the old path. The old sidewalk into México at night was dark and confusing on this side, but this is so much more well-lit," said Tijuana resident Maria Mendez, who was traveling with her toddler son.Original article