EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Officials on Thursday dedicated an expanded, state-of-the-art border crossing in Columbus, New Mexico, which should enhance trade opportunities for a large region that includes El Paso.

Members of the U.S. General Services Administration, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and representatives from various federal and state lawmakers participated in a dedication ceremony Thursday morning.

The new facility built by the GSA separates commercial from passenger traffic, adds inspection lanes for autos and pedestrians and has more security features than the facility it replaces.

The new facility will allow CBP officers to more effectively and securely process the increasing volume of travelers and commercial trade, said Hector Mancha, CBP’s director of field operations in El Paso. The previous facility was built in 1989 and was designed to accommodate visitors and a few commercial vehicles entering the United States.

This file photo shows a truck leaving the FoxConn factory, Tuesday, August 7, 2012, in Juarez, Mexico, just across the Santa Teresa Border crossing from the U.S. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)

“Whenever New Mexico gets any border infrastructure it’s a plus for trade operations. It gives companies another option in our region. Obviously, El Paso ports of entry are a big player in our economy, so this is another important piece of infrastructure to attract companies to our region,” said Jerry Pacheco, president and CEO of the Santa Teresa-based Border Industrial Association.

He characterized the old Columbus border crossing as a “reliever port,” used by industry whenever bottlenecks happen at other crossings. That’s about to change. “The port will certainly be more efficient and hopefully attract some more business to the region. There are a lot of smaller businesses in northwest Chihuahua that could use that port of entry now that it’s improved, now that you have commercial lanes totally separated from passenger lanes,” Pacheco said.

According to the GSA, the improvements to the Columbus port of entry include:

  • A new administration building with an expanded pedestrian inspection area
  • Primary and secondary passenger vehicle inspection facilities
  • Commercial primary and exit booths
  • Cargo building and dock connected to the administration building
  • Expanded outside vehicle parking
  • Seized-vehicle processing area
  • A kennel
  • A hazardous materials containment area
Officials dedicate an expanded, state-of-the-art border crossing in Columbus, New Mexico (Courtesy CBP)

Previously, the border crossing only had two passenger vehicle lanes, compared to three now. Also, commercial trucks used to idle in line with passenger vehicles, whereas now they have their own dedicated lane. The truck inspection area more than doubles in size, going from six commercial docks to 14. The crossing also added a pedestrian lane, so not it has two.

“Through the partnerships we’ve developed with CBP and local stakeholders, the new (port of entry) will be a 21stcentury facility that supports port operations, the local economy, and the community of users who pass through it daily,” GSA Regional Administrator Bobby Babcock said.