Commercial traffic on the Bridge of the Americas is contributing a lot of pollution to the surrounding neighborhood, and there’s not a lot that the U.S. can do about it.
The federal government is fixing to spend about $700 million to “modernize and expand” the Bridge of the Americas, aka, the Free Bridge.
“The economic prosperity of El Paso and the strength of our national supply chain relies on the trade flowing across our outdated land ports of entry,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the much-needed modernization and expansion of the Bridge of the Americas Land Port of Entry will be fully funded. I look forward to working closely with the General Services Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and community partners and stakeholders in our binational region to ensure this project creates good-paying jobs, promotes economic growth and development, and reduces air pollution in the borderland.”
Congresswoman Escobar claims that the modernization of the Bridge of the Americas “reduces air pollution in the borderland.” And sure, all those passenger vehicles idling on the bridge for an hour or more contribute to pollution. But what about the big trucks?
All the idling trucks at the bridge are on their way to Mexico. Trucks coming into the U.S. are only waiting about 15 minutes to get through U.S. Customs.
Here’s a screenshot I just took:
I checked the U.S. Customs Border Wait Times web page frequently last week, and a 15 minute wait is typical. Also note that the BOTA Cargo Lanes are only open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. I guess those limited hours accommodate the demand.
Even if we spend close to $700 million to improve passenger car wait times, we’ll still be stuck with all those idling diesels waiting to cross into Mexico. Those trucks are a major source of air pollution.
And, inasmuch as Mexico is a sovereign state, there’s no way we can make them speed commercial truck crossing times. Even if we ask them to speed up crossing times, and they do it, they can always change their mind later on.
The practical solution is to close the BOTA to truck traffic and move the commercial traffic to Tornillo.