Pollution at the Bridge of the Americas

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.

From her Congressional website:

“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economic prosperity of El Paso and the strength of our national supply chain relies on the trade flowing across our outdated land ports of entry,” said Congresswoman Escobar.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.


  1. Meanwhle, think about the sheer numbers involved and their effect on local traffic flow! And, these people want to expand (picture Jim Mora here) the capacity? What a nightmare.

  2. One solution is to get truck traffic off BOTA and routed to the three other POEs – Santa Teresa; Zaragoza; Tornillo. The Community First Coalition and local neighborhood associations have lobbied the GSA to do exactly this and as I write this City Council is in session to consider Item 19:
    Discussion and action that the Mayor, as representative of the City in intra/inter-governmental relationships, send a letter to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to express the City of El Paso’s preference that the Bridge of the Americas Land Port of Entry (BOTA LPOE) project move forward with a project scope that removes commercial truck traffic from the LPOE.

    So, maybe it will happen. The Big Question is where our Congressional Rep stands on the matter. Because there are four options the GSA is considering for the POE and one of them involves flattening the Coliseum to add more truck capacity to the BOTA. You don’t suppose there are people who would like to see the Coliseum demolished in order to exert even more pressure for a downtown arena?

    This is El Paso 🙂

    1. I don’t think it’s the downtown arena anymore.

      I think a certain faction is looking to capture the County’s share of the Hotel Occupancy Tax for, say, perhaps, a soccer stadium.

      But I was wrong before.


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