Just when we thought the agonizing 3-hour border waits might come to an end, Tijuana municipal authorities have intervened, in spite of good intentions, to cause new problems for drivers.
On Saturday, March 1, the Secretary of Public Municipal Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública Municipal (SSPM), began to reroute SENTRI pass drivers through Padre Kino Boulevard. According to news reports, and consistent with my own experience crossing on Monday afternoon, the route to the SENTRI crossing was changed without notice, provoking chaos as frustrated drivers were forced to circle around and around, make U-turns, and stop one by one to solicit information from police officers directing traffic.
Municipal authorities are hoping that this route change will ease the traffic congestion and long lines that form on the Via Rapida Oriente as SENTRI pass drivers cue up to wind their way around and around. The old route was already ridiculously confusing and chaotic. Starting from downtown Tijuana, drivers would move east on Calle Segunda and curve around to the glorieta in Colonia Federal, then after a U-turn, head back under the bridge and around a curve, and on most days, a quick illegal U-turn to the left would lead drivers straight into the SENTRI lane. But many days, police officers would direct drivers to circle back around again, via Paseo Centenario and making a right to get to the Via Rapida, only to end up under the same bridge drivers passed under a few minutes earlier, and then after a long wait, with hundreds of cars queued up and sometimes blocking ordinary city street traffic for miles, drivers could finally enter the SENTRI lane.
The problem with the new route is that currently there is no access to the SENTRI lanes at all. All drivers end up stuck in the Ready Lane, causing long delays as more and more traffic backs up, while the SENTRI lanes sit empty and abandoned.
As one frustrated driver notes in the comments section of an article in Frontera,
“What are they talking about? They have created total chaos! The access to the SENTRI Lane before was smooth and the inconveniences were minimal for those using the SENTRI pass. Now they have made this a huge traffic jam and caused huge problems. It is almost easier to go straight to the Ready Lane.”
Last month, it was announced that the United States Congress finally passed an appropriations bill, earmarking $226 million dollars to finish the three-stage San Ysidro Port of Entry project that was started back in 2009. Two of the three stages were finished last year, but Congress was reluctant to vote for funding to complete the third stage. With this new funding, the General Services Administration, the agency that owns the Ports of Entry, will be set to complete the project, increasing the number of inspection booths from the current 24 to 62.
Now, if Tijuana can resolve the traffic problems clogging city streets on route to the border crossing, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.