San Diego (Border Report) — On most mornings, Otay Mountain appears to be wrapped in fog, but it’s actually a combination smog and haze creating a blanket of bad air southeast of Downtown San Diego.
The air pollutants are said to originate in part from two existing border crossings in the region, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, the first of which is the biggest of its kind in the western hemisphere.
“When you have thousands and thousands of cars idling for hours and hours on in at San Ysidro and Otay Mesa, that is emissions that get into atmosphere changing our climate degrading our quality of life,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
Gloria said the air quality in communities along the border has decreased as more and more vehicles are crossing the border on a daily basis.
“By getting people more efficiently across the border it will reduce emissions into our atmosphere and help save our planet,” he said.
Gloria believes air quality will improve once the new Otay Mesa East Port of Entry — Otay II — comes on line.
“This is one way we can significantly reduce emissions in our border region, this is an area by the way where we have high levels of asthma and poor air quality in communities like San Ysidro, Otay Mesa and Tijuana.”
The port of entry won’t be ready for another two years, but Gloria and San Diego County Vice Chair Nora Vargas believe the wait will be worth it.
“You’re talking about communities that have been impacted for so long,” said Vargas. “You have trucks that are sitting idle for hours and hours.”
Vargas believes the new port of entry, which includes five lanes for commercial trucks, is going to help clean up the air between San Diego and Tijuana.
“The new traffic lanes means you’re not going to have trucks just sitting there on the Mexican side and that is really impacting both sides of the border.”
Even though the new crossing will have a toll, Vargas said it will draw vehicles away from crossings now open, expediting commutes for both trucks and single vehicles.
“This is going to be a great help,” she said.
The new port of entry is expected to be complete by September 2024.