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Exclusive first look at Tornillo Port of Entry
EL PASO, Texas-- El Paso County completed its portion of the bridge at the Tornillo Port of Entry, and now it's Mexico's turn to finish the new port.
Friday, KFOX14 got an exclusive first look at the completed bridge and the county's new toll facility. The project, 13 years in the making, was supposed to be finished this year, but delays on the part of the Mexican government leave one end of the bridge hovering over the Rio Grande.
That's how it's earned the nickname "The Bridge to Nowhere." Bureaucracy is mainly to blame for the new port's delay.
"You have a local government, the federal government and a completely sovereign government in another country," said County Commissioner Vince Perez.
The county has kept its end of the bargain. The new bridge boasts six lanes, three in each direction -- a major improvement from the current one and half lane bridge, which can't support commercial traffic.
The port will also have checks for traffic headed to Mexico, not just for northbound drivers. Those checks will look for things like gun-running and large amounts of cash.
Perez said that will serve as a model for all other ports.
"We've realized with the drug wars and all that's happened in Mexico we clearly have to do our part as well," said Perez.
The county also built its first toll facility at the port, which will charge passengers headed south to Mexico.
Perez doesn't put too much stock into that "nowhere" nickname. When it's complete, the state-of-the-art facility will be the largest land port of entry in the country.
With the county's side now complete, it's hard not to notice the bridge just drops off, but Perez points out the federal government invested around $93 million in the project, a strong indicator it will be completed.
Plus it's all part of a master plan, anticipating the inevitable expansion of the borderland.
"If you look at the way the city is growing, there really aren't many places for the city to grow. You'll notice a lot of the housing developments are going east. I think there's tremendous potential," said Perez.
While the Tornillo port of entry is currently in farming country, that might not be the case in the future and the federal government wants to be prepared for the growth.
"It's better to anticipate the growth rather than having to retrofit the facilities like you do at the other ports of entry. Now you're downtown, how can you expand that port? You have to come up with a pretty innovative way, said Perez.
When it's complete, the new port will help bolster trade and transportation -- a big plus for the community. Plus both countries plan to build bigger highways connecting to the port. The increased pathways will help open up the channels between the neighboring countries.
"Anything we can do to help increase the flow, make the flow more efficient, is ultimately going to benefit the economy," said Perez.
There are some blue stakes on the Mexico side of the border, marking where the bridge will go on their side.
All indications are Mexico should be breaking ground this month and the port will open sometime in the summer of 2014.