SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — The White House on Thursday announced that it is awarding $1.5 billion in grants for 26 transportation projects nationwide, including the planned Otay Mesa East Port of Entry in south San Diego, which is getting $150 million during this first round of funding.
The money is part of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program, or INFRA, which is being funded by President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Over the next five years, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide approximately $8 billion for the INFRA projects.
According to the Department of Transportation, the money is to be used for “highway, multimodal freight and rail projects that will make the nation’s transportation systems safer and more resilient, eliminate supply chain bottlenecks, and improve critical freight movements.”
“Today we are announcing transformative investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, ports, and rail to improve the way Americans get around and help lower the costs of shipping goods,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Using funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are able to support more excellent community-led projects this year than ever before.”
Administrators behind the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry and Highway 11, which will connect the border crossing to the rest of San Diego’s transportation grid, said the money will ensure the project gets done on time.
“This is the missing link to our financial package,” said Maria Rodriguez, project development program manager for the San Diego Association of Governments. “This really puts it together and closes the loop around the funding to take us to the final construction.”
The project carries an overall budget of $1.1 billion.
“Without this, we would be scratching our heads and trying to find an additional source of funding, we are ready to proceed 100 percent,” Rodriguez said.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is in charge of the port of entry’s construction along with the completion of Highway 11.
“When you get the biggest INFRA grant in the nation it shows how much the federal government is supporting the Otay Mesa East and State Route 11 project,” said Mario Orso, chief deputy district director of capital for Caltrans’ District 11. “It’s money that now the state of California and SANDAG will not have to go get, and if we would’ve gotten the money we would’ve had to pay interest and now we won’t.”
One of the conditions of the grant is that part of the money is spent on charging stations for federal vehicles to be used in the port of entry.
A California Highway Patrol weigh station and inspection area will also be built with the money to ensure commercial trucks meet safety and clean-air standards.
“We have already invested $600 million basically on the right of way and transportation facility, now we’re starting to prep the port property,” said Orso. “That’s huge news, it’s helping us get closer to constructing the port of entry,”
According to Orso, the plan is to start building the actual facility next year and have it ready to go by September 2024.