Representatives from the General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) were in Douglas last week announcing that the Feasibility Study, which began in the fall of 2017, confirmed a need for a two-port solution in order to modernize the Douglas Port of Entry.
Anthony Kleppe, Region 9 Program Coordinator, indicated that “GSA and Customs and Border Protection have determined that the combined commercial and noncommercial facilities are not feasible given the conflicts in the City of Douglas and the limitations of space in Agua Prieta.”
The City of Douglas and its various stakeholders including the Douglas Regional Economic Development Corporation, the Douglas Industrial Development Authority, the Douglas International Port Authority and Cochise County have been advocating for two years that the long term solution for the border crossing issues at Douglas requires the relocation of commercial operations to a new port of entry to the west and dedicating the existing port of entry to cars, pedestrians and other forms of non-commercial traffic.
“This is great news for Douglas and the entire region,” said Douglas’ Mayor Robert Uribe said in a press release released by the city. “Our port of entry is simply outdated, overburdened and heavily congested. It is not uncommon to have people wait several hours to cross and that is detrimental for our downtown merchants and out retail sector as a whole.”
Uribe added the County is an active supporter of the two port solution.
“That is how the Douglas is growing and a new state of the art facility to the west for trucks and all the hazardous materials that cross at our port of entry is essential for the safety of our residents,” stated Ann English, Cochise County Supervisor.
“This puts Douglas in line to receive several hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding in coming years but we have a long way to go to get this done,” added Patrick Scherden, Chairman of the Douglas Industrial Development Authority in that release.
“We have been at this for two years fighting an uphill battle and this is the first real confirmation that our efforts are paying off and that we were right in looking at two ports as the long-term solution for our binational community,” added Mayor Uribe. “There is simply too much at stake and we need to remain focused. We must keep in mind that the ports are not the end game but rather what they will allow us to do. To attract new investment to our community, promote tourism, expand our tax base and create more jobs.”
Upon receiving this news, Representative Martha McSally issued the following statement.
"I have been working on modernizing the Douglas Port of Entry with a two-port solution since I arrived in Congress. This project is absolutely vital to our security and local economy. Yesterday’s announcement is a major win for Douglas, our region, our state, and our country and represents a critical step towards updating this antiquated facility."
Over the last four years, Representative McSally has fought tirelessly to update the Douglas Port of Entry (POE). She has engaged with administration officials under President Obama as well as President Trump. As Chairwoman of the Border Maritime Security Subcommittee, Representative McSally held a hearing on border infrastructure and manning needs where she highlighted the importance of improving the Douglas POE. In addition, Congresswoman McSally has repeatedly called on CBP to accelerate their modernization projects. Because of her advocacy, the Douglas Port of Entry project was placed on CBP's five-year plan and the feasibility study was funded.
Luis Ramirez, Douglas’ Port of Entry consultant, said this major announcement is the reaffirmation of the efforts of the mayor and council as well as the county.
“We’re finally getting the confirmation that the two port solution is the only way to move forward for Douglas and Agua Prieta,” he said. “The government has even given us indications of their intent to pay for the entire investment of that infrastructure. … There is not enough space on both sides of the border to meet the long-term needs of the community. This is a long-term solution that we are getting.”
“This is what we have been waiting for,” Mayor Uribe said of the announcement. “We have to have both entities, both parties at the table for us to complete this successful project.”
The next step Ramirez said will be a series of technical meetings starting in 2019 that will look at available parcels of land; the infrastructure that is available to and from.
“We need to work with our congressional offices … to make sure that now that we know the federal government is pushing this, we need all of our stakeholders involved in this in both Washington D.C. as well as Mexico City,” he said.
“This is not just Douglas or Agua Prieta, it is a bi-national effort,” Mayor Uribe stated. “Today is a proud moment for our community.”