This schematic of the San Ysidro border crossing shows the old entry point… (Baja California Secretary…)
Tens of thousands of vehicles took a modified route from California into Mexico on Thursday with the opening of an expanded entry point at the busy U.S.-Tijuana border crossing that hopes to double the number of vehicles processed.
Drivers heading southbound from San Ysidro, Calif., made the switch at 6 a.m. when the Puerta Mexico station closed and the new El Chaparral location opened. Even Mexican President Felipe Calderon swung by for an inaugural visit.
Though changes to U.S. Interstate 5 to accommodate the new entry point haven't yet been funded, there's a temporary connector road after the Camino De La Plaza on-ramp that directs travelers to take a sharp right-hand turn onto a four-lane road.
"We're very excited about the new border crossing going on today," Juan Tintos Funcke, secretary of tourism for Baja California, said in a phone interview. "It doubles the capacity from 11 to 22 lanes." There's also increased staffing and new technology aimed at speeding up inspections.
Drivers have waited up to two hours to cross the border during holidays and Friday evenings. Funcke said the new southbound entry point should cut the wait time during busy periods to half an hour, though regular traffic will move much faster than that.
Tests beginning Oct. 24 processed 21,600 southbound vehicles a day with waits of 10 minutes during peak times, the Associated Press reports. The story quoted Mexican authorities saying up to 100 vehicles moved through 22 inspection lanes every minute.
But, Funcke noted, the proof will come when traffic jumps for events like the Baja 1000 Ensenada to La Paz road race from Nov. 14 to 17 and the Thanksgiving holiday. That's when Mexican authorities will be monitoring wait times to make sure things run smoothly, he said.
In addition, the El Chaparral entry point features new bridges to downtown Tijuana, east Tijuana and the beach towns of Rosarito and Ensenada.
The U.S. and Mexico plan to expand northbound lanes, too, a proposal that would mean a total of 63 booths over 34 lanes within the next four years. Northbound lanes remain unaffected by the recent changes.
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