– The U.S. government finished the expansion project of the San Ysidro port of entry that began almost a decade ago to expedite crossings in the busiest land border in the Western Hemisphere.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau attended the ceremony that marked the completion of the $741 million project that included the construction of a second pedestrian crossing from Tijuana to San Diego and eight new lanes at the vehicle port of entry for a total of 34.

“The border is a very special place, it’s a line that divides our countries, but it’s also a region that really unites our countries,” Landau said. “When I began as an ambassador to Mexico, I announced that I had three priorities: migration, security and commerce, and I think standing here today I feel like I’m in the epicenter, ground zero for all of those priorities.”

The expansion and renovation were completed in three phases a decade ahead of a projection made by the San Diego Association of Governments, which estimates that vehicle traffic at the San Ysidro port of entry will increase 87% by 2030.

Currently, the border processes an average of 70,000 northbound vehicle passengers and 20,000 pedestrians per day, according to the General Services Administration.

“The GSA project team was able to deliver this important project on time and under budget while maintaining operation at the busiest land port in the Western Hemisphere,” said Allison Azevedo, GSA public buildings service deputy commissioner.

Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, consul general of Mexico in San Diego, said, “This port of entry is proof that we do not require higher walls. Our region requires a smarter border that serves as a filter, not as an obstacle.”

The new port has now 62 northbound vehicle primary inspection booths that spread over 34 lanes.

The opening of the last four lanes on the left side will have to wait since it requires that Mexican authorities make adjustments that allow vehicles to access more efficiently.

This area is in front of the old Puerta Mexico, which for many years was the main gateway from San Ysidro to Tijuana. An access was needed to prevent a bottleneck.

Tests were conducted at the border crossing to see whether it was possible to open the last four lanes without waiting for Mexico to complete their part, but it was concluded that it was not feasible, said Ramon Riesgo, southern project director with GSA.

“We decided that it was a bit dangerous and weird the way the commuter had to get [to the new lanes], so we decided to wait until Mexico finishes to have the eight lanes fully operational,” he said.

Gonzalez Gutierrez said the bidding process for the construction works will begin “shortly.”

The business sector believes this project will boost economic development and attract more investment. Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, said this could improve the border dynamic.

“There is just going to be an easy flow of traffic, which means families can see each other on both sides of the border, tourists can get to both sides of the border really quickly and commerce can flow a lot easier. I think it is going to make it really much easier for our binational partnership,” he said.