Past projects show bor­der wall build­ing is com­plex and costly

Texarkana Gazette - - STATE -

AL­BU­QUERQUE, N.M.— Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is not giv­ing up on his de­mand for $5.7 bil­lion to build a wall along the U.S.Mex­ico bor­der, say­ing a phys­i­cal bar­rier is cen­tral to any strat­egy for ad­dress­ing the se­cu­rity and hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis at the south­ern bor­der.

Democrats ar­gue that fund­ing the con­struc­tion of a steel bar­rier along 234 miles (377 kilo­me­ters) will not solve the prob­lems. A 2018 gov­ern­ment re­port warns of in­creased risks that the U.S. wall-build­ing pro­gram will cost more than pro­jected, take longer than planned and not per­form as ex­pected.

Walls and fenc­ing now cover about one-third of the 1,954-mile­long (3,145-kilo­me­ter-long) bor­der. Some con­struc­tion be­gan with for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton in the early 1990s, Ge­orge W. Bush ramped up the ef­fort in 2006 and Barack Obama built more than 130 miles (209 kilo­me­ters), mostly dur­ing his first year in of­fice.

Be­tween 2007 and 2015, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion spent $2.4 bil­lion to add 535 miles (861 kilo­me­ters) of pedes­trian and ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers and other in­fra­struc­ture along the bor­der.

Trump wants to ex­tend and for­tify what’s al­ready in place. But con­tract­ing, de­sign­ing and build­ing new wall sys­tems com­plete with up­dated tech­nol­ogy could take years, and past ex­pe­ri­ence has shown such work can be com­pli­cated and costly.

Here is how much the gov­ern­ment has spent on bar­ri­ers in the states along the Mex­i­can bor­der:


Con­gress last spring ap­proved $641 mil­lion for 33 miles (53 kilo­me­ters) of con­struc­tion in South Texas’ Rio Grande Val­ley, the busiest cor­ri­dor for il­le­gal bor­der cross­ings. Tar­geted ar­eas in­clude the non­profit Na­tional But­ter­fly Cen­ter, a state park and pri­vately owned ranches and farm­land.

In El Paso, con­struc­tion started last fall in the Chi­huahuita neigh­bor­hood—the bor­der city’s old­est neigh­bor­hood—to re­place 4 miles (6 kilo­me­ters) of chain-link fenc­ing with a new steel bol­lard wall. The es­ti­mated cost: $22 mil­lion.

There has been fenc­ing for decades in cities such as El Paso and San Diego. Once built, in­creased crack­downs in those ar­eas led to a drop in ap­pre­hen­sions. But au­thor­i­ties have com­plained that as a re­sult of those ef­forts, il­le­gal cross­ings and traf­fick­ing ac­tiv­ity has been pushed to more re­mote stretches of the bor­der.


Much of Cal­i­for­nia’s 141 miles (227 kilo­me­ters) of bor­der with Mex­ico was fenced dur­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion through a se­cu­rity mea­sure that won con­gres­sional ap­proval and had sup­port from key Democrats.

In 2009, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment spent about $16 mil­lion a mile on a 3.5-mile (5.5-kilo­me­ter) stretch in San Diego, us­ing about 2 mil­lion tons of dirt to fill in a canyon known as Smug­gler’s Gulch. The earthen dam was then topped with lay­ers of fenc­ing.

At the Im­pe­rial Sand Dunes, the U.S. built a float­ing fence of 16-footh­igh (5-me­ter-high) steel tubes that can be raised or low­ered as the sands shift. The $6 mil­lion-a-mile bar­rier cuts through a film lo­ca­tion for “Star Wars: Re­turn of the Jedi” that re­sem­bles the Sa­hara.

Both are ex­am­ples of some of the rugged ter­ri­tory along the bor­der that can re­sult in higher costs.

The Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice es­ti­mated in 2018 that new bor­der wall con­struc­tion av­er­ages $6.5 mil­lion a mile but ter­rain, build­ing ma­te­ri­als and other fac­tors in­flu­ence costs. Else­where, the Rio Grande’s wind­ing wa­ters and lush veg­e­ta­tion are more chal­leng­ing for erect­ing walls than Ari­zona’s flat deserts.


In 2006, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment com­pleted a 30-mile (48-kilo­me­ter) stretch of steel bar­ri­ers to keep peo­ple from il­le­gally cross­ing into the Or­gan Pipe Cac­tus Na­tional Mon­u­ment. The bar­ri­ers were de­signed to stop ve­hi­cles from driv­ing around a check­point in Lukeville or up through the desert wilder­ness. That three-year project had a price tag of $18 mil­lion.

More re­cently, Barnard Con­struc­tion Co. Inc. of Mon­tana was awarded $172 mil­lion for 14 miles (23 kilo­me­ters) of new fenc­ing in the Bor­der Pa­trol’s Yuma Sec­tor. Of­fi­cials say the to­tal value of that con­tract could reach $324 mil­lion for 32 miles (52 kilo­me­ters).


More than a dozen miles of fence were built near Colum­bus in 2000, stretch­ing from the bor­der town to an onion farm and cat­tle ranch. A sur­vey done sev­eral years later de­ter­mined that a 1.5-mile (2-kilo­me­ter) sec­tion that was de­signed to keep cars from il­le­gally cross­ing into the U.S. was ac­ci­den­tally built on Mex­i­can soil.

The project was be­lieved to ini­tially cost about $500,000 a mile, while es­ti­mates to up­root and re­lo­cate the fenc­ing ranged from $2.5 mil­lion to $3.5 mil­lion.

In 2018, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment awarded a $73 mil­lion con­tract to the same Mon­tana-based com­pany to rip out old ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers and re­place them with a new bol­lard-style wall of tall metal slats and ex­ten­sive con­crete foot­ings along a 20-mile (32-kilo­me­ter) stretch near Santa Teresa. That project was fin­ished months ahead of sched­ule.

As­so­ci­ated Press

■ A U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pa­trol agent pa­trols a sec­tion of float­ing fence at sun­set July 18, 2018, that runs through the Im­pe­rial Sand Dunes along the in­ter­na­tional bor­der with Mex­ico in Im­pe­rial County, Calif. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is not giv­ing up on his de­mands for $5.7 bil­lion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, say­ing a phys­i­cal bar­rier is cen­tral to any strat­egy for ad­dress­ing the se­cu­rity and hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis at the south­ern bor­der. Democrats ar­gue that fund­ing the con­struc­tion of a steel bar­rier along roughly 234 miles will not solve the prob­lems.

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