U.S. Customs and Border Protection is expanding a lane staffing initiative that the agency said has reduced border crossing times during peak traffic periods and throughout the day.
Since May of this year CBP has fully staffed all vehicle and pedestrian primary inspection lanes between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. The impact, according to CBP officials, has resulted in a 14-percent decrease in wait times during the four-hour peak morning traffic period and a 17-percent reduction throughout the balance of the day.
CBP is planning to expand the lane staffing initiative on Friday and Saturday. It will run from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Sunday all lanes will be staffed from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
"The final weekend before Christmas has traditionally been the busiest at the El Paso port of entry," said CBP El Paso Port Director Hector Mancha. "We believe that extending our staffing initiative will have a positive impact and expedite the entry of those looking to cross the border in the next few days."
CBP says it will be able to take the step by temporarily moving port personnel from existing work stations to primary inspection lanes.
"We would also like to remind frequent border crossers that those seeking a consistently faster entry should consider enrolling in the SENTRI program," said Mancha. "The program cost is about seven cents per day and provides trusted travelers the opportunity to quickly cross the border at the Ysleta and Stanton car lanes and the Paso Del Norte pedestrian inspection area."
In addition to opening all lanes during peak hours, CBP has recently implemented a number of technological upgrades that officials say will improve processing times while strengthening border security.
CBP is also offering a series of tips to help travelers during the holiday travel season. CBP officials say adopting the strategies in the following list can help travelers cross the border quickly, safely and without incident.
-Travelers should prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth. Have crossing documents available for the inspection including a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) approved document for U.S. citizens (www.getyouhome.gov).
-Drivers with RFID-enabled documents should consider using one of the Ready Lanes now operational at the Paso Del Norte, Bridge of the Americas, and Ysleta crossings. Processing times at these lanes are generally 15-20 seconds quicker per vehicle than normal lanes.
-Travelers approaching an interior Border Patrol checkpoint should have their documents ready to present to the U.S. Border Patrol agent if asked. This will save time.
-Travelers should declare all items acquired abroad. In addition, individuals should end cellular phone conversations before arriving at the inspection booth.
-Travelers should build extra time into their trips in the event they cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic. This includes SENTRI/Dedicated Commuter Lane (DCL) users.
-Travelers are encouraged to visit the "Know Before You Go" section of the CBP website at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/ to avoid finess and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items. "Know Before You Go" brochures are available at border ports.
-Consult the CBP website site at http://apps.cbp.gov/bwt/ to monitor border crossing times. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits.
-During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative entry routes. They should also travel during non-peak hours if their schedule allows.
-Visit the port of entry to obtain I-94 travel documents in advance of the busiest holiday travel periods. This will allow travelers who require I-94 documents (those planning to travel beyond the border zone or stay in the U.S. for more than 30 days) to bypass those lines when they formally enter the U.S. They will still be subject to the inspection process.
-Drivers should insure that their vehicles are properly maintained and mechanically sound and that occupants avoid riding in areas of vehicles not specifically designed to carry passengers. Failure to follow these steps can expose crossers/passengers to carbon monoxide.