The federal government has paid almost $6.5 million for 16 acres at the Otay Mesa border crossing that will be used to expand the crossing for commercial traffic, authorities said Friday.
The transaction between the federal General Services Administration and the Otay International Center was officially closed Thursday, a spokeswoman for the GSA said Friday.
The expansion is expected to at least double the capacity of the existing facility, which now has 52 commercial docks. In addition, the expansion is expected to give momentum to a proposal by San Diego City Councilman Bob Filner to close the Virginia Street commercial border crossing in San Ysidro and to relocate that commercial traffic to Otay Mesa.
Funding for the land purchase was approved by Congress in December, 1987, but property inspection, soil testing and paper work held up the acquisition, said Gene Gregston, an aide to Rep. Bill Lowery (R-San Diego).
Officials once estimated construction costs at $8 million, but GSA spokeswoman Mary Filippini said Friday she could neither give a cost estimate nor describe plans for the new facility.
"Now that we have the site, what we'll be doing is sitting down with (the U. S. Customs Service) and developing the project itself. . . . We have to develop what we want to do first, what the project is, what it's going to entail," she said.
The GSA still has to put together a prospectus, including estimated construction costs, for approval of the expanded crossing by Congress, she said. "There's no way we can come up with an estimate until we know what we want to do."
A spokesman for Filner's office said building costs will depend on whether or not Customs officials plan to expand the northbound gate or create a two-way gate for commercial traffic. Filner's aide, Francisco Estrada, said Filner prefers creating a two-way gate.
Construction is not expected to begin for two or three years.
A Customs Service spokeswoman said $3 billion worth of merchandise was imported across the Otay Mesa border between October, 1987, and September, 1988, a 26% increase over the previous year.