Highlights of San Diego TEA-21 National Listening Session
Corridors and Borders
San Diego, California
August 25, 1998
OVERALL: This session was organized by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and focused on issues related to TEA-21 National Corridor Planning and Border Infrastructure
programs. Since the session was held in California there was a great deal of emphasis on specific
Southern California projects.
Specific Issues: The situation at Otay Mesa is unsafe since the road leading to and from the port
of entry is simply overloaded. The regional government in the area has proposed a series of
projects (SR 905, going through Otay Mesa, being the one mentioned most often) to address the
problems at the Otay Mesa border crossing. Representatives from the region indicated that they
are looking to the Border Infrastructure program to help complete a funding package they have
Congressman Bob Filner and others promoted a project to connect the Port of San Diego via the
San Diego-Eastern railway to Mexico and the Union Pacific main line. They recommended that
this project be considered for funding under the 'Corridors and Borders' program. Also, future
problems at the Tecate-Baja California border crossing were discussed.
In general, the members from Texas and other parts of the country, including Arizona and Washington, focussed on the criteria in the bill that should be put in place to allocate funds to projects, instead of specific projects. Because the funding in the program is limited, many at the conference recommended that the Department of Transportation look at ways to get the biggest bang for the buck.
- Use funds for institutional or logistical improvements that can make a significant difference in smoothing traffic flow at the border but are not as costly as funding construction projects. Examples include: developing pre-clearance processes, paperless
processing, and other ITS applications.
- Make improvements to interagency coordination and administrative changes such as funding 24-hour service at the Customs Facility at the border and coordination between Customs and the California Highway Patrol. (There was some disagreement about whether funding for such projects as paying the salaries of additional customs officers should come from a US DOT funding source.) Additionally, there was disagreement about whether these kinds of improvements would make any difference without infrastructure improvements, particularly at the Otay Mesa facility.
- Target funds to projects that fill key gaps in the current corridor infrastructure and that are of importance to national security, and interstate and international commerce.
The Hudson Dam project was discussed in this context and the problems caused by the bottleneck at the Colorado River.
- Use funds to implement projects that connect border crossings with multiple corridors
and provide maximum connectivity between the national corridors and multiple parts of the country. Members from Texas emphasized this as a key criteria for funding projects. Also, they asked that top priority be given to border crossings and corridors based on volume of cargo affected.
- Implement projects that leverage private funds. Dean Dunphy, Secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency suggested that funds be used to help create private Ports of Entry, where truckers would pay a premium to cross the border more quickly than at the public Port of Entry.
- Funds should go first to High Priority Corridors that are designated in the federal legislation.
Criteria for prioritizing projects:
Almost all at the session agreed that projects should demonstrate interagency cooperation and the participation of a broad range of stakeholders, including cross-border partnerships where applicable. It was suggested that funds should be allocated using equitable criteria that is based on the language in the legislation. There should be an emphasis on "fix it first" looking to at least address current serious bottlenecks. There was consensus that applications for the program should have to prove that the proposed project would benefit the national interest. It was also suggested that corridors should support enterprise zones and low income rural and/or urban communities.
- MPO and Statewide planning should support the border and corridor projects.
- Projects should have joint grant applications and projects endorsed by Governor and Congressional delegations.
- Projects should have a track record of financial commitment as well as a significant local/state commitment to corridor funding. In general, proposals should show how they would leverage significant non-federal funds.
- Significant freight and passenger traffic delays should be corrected with the project.
- Certain areas asked that the USDOT not penalize regions that had already moved beyond the planning stages and were already implementing projects to deploy ITS technologies and other efforts to smooth the flow of goods. In particular, the Puget Sound International Trade Corridor was mentioned in this context.
- Members of the Texas delegation emphasized that the USDOT should come up with provisions to help counties along the border which are poor and may not be able to come up with sufficient matching funds, or as much in matching funds, as richer border crossing areas.
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