EL PASO, Texas - People crossing the border may have to pay more at city-owned ports of entry if the El Paso city council approves proposed toll increases on Tuesday.
Border crossers traveling in non-commercial vehicles, will have to pay $3 instead of the current $2.50 and commercial vehicle drivers will have to pay $4 instead of $3.50. Pedestrians will not be affected.
The 50-cent increases will take effect January 26, if approved.
The measure stems from the City's efforts to reduce wait times at ports of entry. Long wait times hinder border trade and economic development, according to local and federal officials.
A new law, supported by Congressman Beto O'Rourke, established a pilot program that allows local governments to divert money to Customs and Border Protection to better staff international bridges.
The City's goal is to open every single lane at the Paso Del Norte and Ysleta ports of entry during peak hours. "We need an agent manning every lane during those really busy hours," said Jane Shang, the City's Deputy City Manager in charge of transportation. The peak hours include Saturday and Sunday mornings and afternoons and holidays.
The money generated from the toll hikes will be used for overtime pay for Customs and Border Protection Agents. The City projects the bridge increase will generate about $2.5 million in 2014, said Shang. Though she said only $1.5 million is currently allocated for the CBP overtime pay.
"Not allocating all of the money allows the city flexibility - that if there are other needs for the program, the city will have funding for them," said Shang. The additional money could be used for infrastructure to improve the streets leading to the bridges or to pay for even more overtime if the City determines it needs more.