A preliminary U.S. Senate budget proposal would chop $100 million in funding for Phase 2 of the Calexico West Port of Entry expansion, leaving full funding for the $275.9 million project uncertain, an Imperial County official has revealed.
The revelation was made in a report at the county Board of Supervisors July 17 meeting by county Intergovernmental Relation Director Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter.
In a follow up interview she explained the U.S. House has the full Phase 2 funding amount in its preliminary budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. However, their Senate counterparts have only allotted $175 million in their draft budget.
The budget proposal issued earlier in the year by President Donald J. Trump called for full funding of Phase 2, but presidential budgets are always torn asunder by Congress.
However, as there is much wrangling to come, Terrazas-Baxter said she holds out hope of a good outcome.
“It will go to conference committee (in which the House and Senate reconcile differences between budget proposals). During conference committee it will likely increase,” she said. “It will be somewhere in between the full amount” (and the Senate amount). At least we’ll get the majority.”
Explaining her take on the Senate’s proposed cut to project funding, Terrazas-Baxter added, “For some reason they had other priorities, that Calexico didn’t need as much.”
The expansion project was initiated to reduce congestion at the port that sees thousands of vehicle and pedestrian crossings daily and to replace aging structures. It is estimated crossing delays at the port, which can run up to three hours during peak periods, cost the region millions lost business, fuel and vehicle maintenance.
The $98 million Phase 1 of the Calexico West Port expansion is nearing completion.
It includes five southbound lanes and a southbound bridge over the New River, ten northbound inspections lanes with primary and secondary inspection canopies, booths and inspection equipment, a new headhouse, and sitework to accommodate those facilities on the sloping site.
Southbound lanes opened July 10 and northbound lanes are expected to open in September.
Phase two will include additional sitework, demolition of the existing port building, a new pedestrian processing facility, administrative offices, five southbound inspection lanes with canopies and booths, and six additional northbound inspection lanes.
The current budget uncertainty is not the first bump in the road for Phase 2 funding. After originally being included in the current 2017-18 federal budget it was left out in the final version Trump signed into law in March. Federal officials were mum on the specifics of why that happened.
U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, whose district includes Imperial County, favors the full funding. In his most recent newsletter mailed to constituents he reported, “…I’m currently working in Congress to secure $276 million in funding for Phase 2.”