New lanes, more inspection stations to help reduce congestion, wait times
As Arizona travelers head south to Rocky Point for summer getaways, their trips back home will be smoother and quicker, now that a project to expand the Lukeville Port of Entry is complete. The port is also a major hub for commercial truck traffic between the United States and Mexico, and its expansion is expected to help boost both tourism and commerce.
The redesign of the Lukeville Port of Entry, located approximately 150 miles from central Phoenix on State Route 85, created two new inbound traffic lanes heading into Arizona from Mexico. Those lanes feed into five inspection stations. The expansion is designed to reduce congestion and wait times at the border. It’s a project that took shape following Memorial Day weekend in 2007, when the border was backed up and cars were in line for eight hours.
Improvements to the port of entry, which is more than 30 years old, were made by the Arizona Department of Transportation, in partnership with the State of Sonora Rocky Point Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Arizona-Mexico Commission, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. General Services Administration.
"In June 2007, a plenary session was held to come up with a solution," said Margie Emmermann, executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. “Tourism had suffered and so had the economies of Arizona and Sonora. A plan came together that involved federal, state and local agencies, and something unique happened. The private sector from Rocky Point also got involved, because we realized that the private sector and the public sector had to come up with a solution together. The public sector just did not have the resources to do it alone.”
The $2.5 million Lukeville project was funded through this unique and critical partnership. The Federal Highway Administration allocated $1.5 million to ADOT, and Mexican businesses provided the rest—$1 million. That money, generated by the Rocky Point Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, was provided to ADOT through the Arizona-Mexico Commission. ADOT began construction on the port of entry last November.
"Puerto Peñasco is not just a tourism destination for U.S. citizens, it’s a destination of investment. It’s a destination for people who have second homes here,” said Oscar Palacio, the former mayor of Rocky Point and the former president of the Rocky Point Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. "We knew at that time it was going to be a project that required a different formula than any other project between the two countries. So instead of finding ways of how not to do it, we needed to find ways how to do it."
During the seven-month project, new state-of-the-art technology was added to the Lukeville Port of Entry, which includes license plate readers and other homeland security monitoring equipment to screen vehicles and maintain a secure border. Additional improvements include new flood lights, new signs and a ready lane for frequent travelers to and from Mexico who carry pre-approved radio-frequency identification cards to cross the border. All of these high-tech tools at Lukeville allow officers with ADOT’s Enforcement and Compliance Division and agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to keep a watchful eye on every vehicle that passes through this port of entry—both passenger and commercial.
"The addition of these lanes and other equipment will benefit both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and travelers, by providing the infrastructure needed to process more vehicles and people at one time," said David Higgerson, director of field operations for CBP. "The additional technology will allow us to efficiently and effectively screen vehicles and travelers, both heading out of the country and coming into the United States, while simultaneously reducing the amount of time they spend waiting in line."
The Lukeville Port of Entry is open every day from 6 a.m. until midnight.