Highway 86 checkpoint lane to be added
SALTON CITY — A multiagency effort is being credited with securing $1.3 million in funding to establish a second inspection lane at the Border Patrol’s Highway 86 checkpoint.
Previous attempts by the Border Patrol to secure federal funds for the checkpoint’s widening proved unsuccessful, prompting local officials to host discussions to identify an alternative solution.
“We felt it was urgent enough to get help to get this done sooner,” said Mark Baza, Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC) executive director.
The ICTC had been in talks with the El Centro Sector Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and state Department of Transportation since mid-2016 as part of the checkpoint widening effort.
Stakeholders were in agreement about the need for an additional inspection lane at the checkpoint to help eliminate traffic congestion that at times backed up to more than a mile, and further promote economic activity, Baza said.
Ultimately, the county Local Transportation Authority (LTA) approved Measure D sales tax proceeds to fund the widening project at its Sept. 20 meeting.
Such Measure D funds are specifically set aside to fund local highway projects.
ICTC staff had requested that the LTA provide funding for the project, with Caltrans carrying out the work on the county’s behalf, since it is a state-owned highway, Baza said.
Construction on the project is not expected to get underway until about mid-2018.
In the meantime, a transfer of funds between parties will take place, as well as an environmental impact study.
The widening project’s $1.3 million price tag is considerably lower than the approximately $3 million that was sought by the Border Patrol for its original widening concept, Baza said.
That original widening design had envisioned the creation of a secondary inspection area adjacent to the Border Patrol’s current area of operation, he said.
Caltrans was also instrumental in helping produce design concepts that varied from the original CBP design, yet proved equally practical.
“We went through several different design concepts to find one acceptable to the Border Patrol and feasible to fund locally,” Baza said.
The project’s $1.3 million price tag is similar to other relatively small projects that LTA has funded in the past and is also currently funding.
One such project involves roadway improvements in Heber at Heber Road and Heffernan Avenue, scheduled to start Monday.
The Heber project will include the addition of sidewalks, improved crosswalks for pedestrians and sidewalk corners compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.
Benches and shelter for bus riders will also be installed near the vicinity of Kennedy’s Market, Baza said.
Much like the ongoing Calexico downtown port of entry expansion project, the Highway 86 checkpoint widening project is notable for the varied agencies that collaborated to find a solution, yet stands apart in one sense.
“Local contribution to a federal need is certainly an unusual thing,” Baza said.