High­way 86 check­point lane to be added

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIO MO­RALES Staff Writer

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.

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