Millions of dollars spent on port of entry; Mexico side remains untouched

POSTED: 08:17 PM MDT Sep 28, 2012    UPDATED: 03:44 PM MST Jan 14, 2014 
El Paso, TEXAS -

Thousands of dollars worth of construction equipment continues to push mounds of dirt in Tornillo, Texas.

A multimillion dollar port of entry project is nearing a completion date slated for mid-2013 on the American side.

While the Mexican government is slated to finish the other half of the port of entry at the same time, looking across the border you won't see the same build-up for construction. Instead, you'll see the small town of Guadalupe, full of people who've heard of the project but have yet to see any progress.

Looking around the town, it's hard to find much. Brick and mortar crumbles to the ground of nearby homes as a handful of people cross the Fabens Port of Entry. It's hard to imagine a multilane bridge will one day allow for a boom of import/export business through the old Mexican town.

Currently, the border crossing consists of a tiny road which sees only a handful of crossings a day because it's not large enough for the major import/export business that is likely to occur in the future, hence the project.

"Here it's only the people that go and visit their family across the way by foot, or by car, that cross," said Jose Garcia, slumped over a wall by a nearby grocery store. "That's about it for now."

Garcia said the biggest traffic backup from border-crossers occurs on Sunday when Americans cross into Mexico to attend church together.

According to Garcia, the people who live in the area have heard about the proposed port of entry since 2011. They've been told, as Americans have, that the port will open next June.

"Supposedly they will begin building in 2012," said Garcia.

In 2011, at a ground-breaking ceremony, reports show that the governor of Chihuahua said work would begin in September. The work hasn't begun.

County Commissioners on the opposite side of the border, in El Paso, Texas, have pumped just under $100 million into the project over the years.

Despite funding the project, the General Services Administration in Washington, D.C. is in charge of the border project. According to members of the GSA, they have not received any correspondence from the Mexican authorities that the border project would not be completed in time.

"Recent discussions and exchange of correspondence through the Department of State has indicated Mexico's assurance that their schedule has not changed," said a spokesperson via email.

Transcripts were not made readily available by request.

While the project unfolds for the federal government, commissioners asked questions about the project earlier this week during their regularly scheduled meeting.

One Commissioner questioned when the time to panic would begin. El Paso County's Public Works Director said that wouldn't be necessary until November, but at that time if nothing had changed they would need to apply pressure to determine what is going on.

Since the federal government oversees the project, the last county elected officials have heard about an update came via a diplomatic note that stated Mexico would hold up its end of the deal. That was earlier this year.

As for Garcia, and other Mexicans who live near Guadalupe, they're hopeful that the border project goes off without a hitch.

Garcia said many cotton farmers nearby could save a lot of money by avoiding a long trip to Juarez, a trip that must be made currently to ship large truckloads of product through the city of El Paso. At this time a border crossing exists, however, it is simply a small bridge that can't handle large trucks.

More information could become available about the Mexican side of the project in mere days.

This year's Border Governors Conference, a conference that brings together governors from both sides of the border, will be held in early October in Albuquerque, N.M.

Ports of Entry, including the Tornillo Port of Entry, will be discussed.