JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Mexico is planning major technology upgrades at its border crossings to improve security and facilitate lawful travel.

The changes include more non-intrusive inspection devices to check vehicles coming into Mexico and automated toll collection for vehicles headed to the United States.

In Juarez, easy-pay toll card dispensers have been installed already at the Zaragoza and Paso del Norte international bridges. The cards will spare pedestrians from having to procure exact change at the turnstiles.

Beginning next month, Mexican officials will be accepting applications for passenger vehicle toll tags. The devices not only will spare motorists the exact change dilemma, but also automatically raise the gate at toll collection boots on the Mexican side of Zaragoza, Paso del Norte and the Tornillo-Guadalupe crossing.

That should reduce delays for motorists waiting to get on the bridges, though actual crossing times also depend on inspections on the American side of the crossings, said Rogelio Fernandez, director of the Chihuahua Bridge Trust.

Rogelio Fernandez, director of the Chihuahua International Bridges Trust Fund, shows the new easy-pay card for pedestrians and the upcoming toll tag for motorists. (Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

“The user will be able to use an app to recharge the cards or do it at machines we have already installed where people can get the cards and forego having to fumble around for change,” Fernandez said.

The trust in the past few years has spent $10 million on license plate readers, 360-degree cameras, electronic messaging boards and 40 miles of fiberoptic cable feeding information into a control-and-command center operating 24-7 at the Zaragoza Bridge.

The investment is but a drop in the bucket compared to what is coming. The Mexican federal government is negotiating a $600 million contract with a U.S. provider to install automated systems – such as weight scales and truck axle counters – and non-intrusive technology for commercial vehicles on its side of the border. The point is to match technology being used at U.S. ports of entry, Mexican officials said.

“It’s good that we invest on customs technology, especially on such scale,” said Thor Salayandia, vice president of the Mexican Chamber of Industry. “Automatization is good for security and for speeding up commerce. The huge volume of traffic between the United States and Mexico requires much better infrastructure than we have now.”

A Juarez resident gets change from a toll-card dispensing machine at the Ysleta-Zaragoza Bridge in Juarez. (Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

Salayandia said transborder commerce has rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to continue growing as North American companies re-shore production and supplies operations from Asia.

With nearly $70 billion in trade goods moving across the border in Far West Texas and Southern New Mexico and more growth on the way, “it’s hard to believe we still have trucks waiting up to four, five hours to cross the border sometimes,” Salayandia said.

According to the March edition of the Paso del Norte Economic Indicator Review, the San Ysidro (California) and the El Paso ports of entry led the way in noncommercial border crossing increases in 2022.