Three Texas cities have offered to donate resources for infrastructure improvements designed to improve the flow of commercial trucks at international ports of entry along the Mexico border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it has tentatively selected the cities of Donna, El Paso and Pharr for an alternative program aimed at allowing communities to help fund facility, technology and infrastructure needs that can facilitate trade and travel. Record increases in passenger and cargo volumes are outpacing CBP appropriations for personnel and infrastructure, resulting in increased passenger wait times and cargo backups.
In 2014, Congress permanently authorized the Donation Acceptance Program to allow CBP and the General Services Administration, which owns and manages most government property, to accept donations of real property, money and non-personal services from private sector and government entities. Accepted donations may be used for the construction, alteration, operations and maintenance of facilities at ports of entry.
The City of Donna has proposed installing new inspection facilities and technologies to facilitate outbound empty commercial vehicle inspections at the Río Bravo International Bridge. The City of El Paso wants to remove an existing traffic island to facilitate commercial traffic flow at the Zaragoza/Ysleta Bridge. Pharr officials have proposed installing additional commercial booths and renovations to facilitate agricultural inspections at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.
The government agencies and cities are expected to sign partnership agreements outlining terms and conditions of the arrangements after jointly developing donation plans that meets CBP’s operational needs at an acceptable cost, schedule and risk.
CBP evaluated the operational benefits, financial feasibility, community support, economic impact and other criteria in determining whether to accept the donations.
CBP, with congressional approval, also utilizes another public-private partnership vehicle which allows private companies or local governments to reimburse the agency for overtime and extra manpower. The donation and reimbursement programs, part of CBP’s Resource Optimization Strategy, were designed to let communities help address bottlenecks that stymie economic growth.
Earlier this month, CBP announced nine new reimbursable services agreements in addition to 20 existing agreements which have provided more than 93,000 additional processing hours at land, sea and air ports around the country, facilitating the movement of 2.3 million passengers and almost 3270,000 personal and commercial vehicles. The nine entities that have agreed to pay for extra Customs services include the Virginia Port Authority, American Airlines and British Airways at John F. Kennedy International passenger terminals, and Dell.
The computer maker is paying for extended hours of service at the Santa Theresa, N.M. land port to expedite shipments from a maquiladora manufacturing plant just south of the border, CBP spokeswoman Janet Evanitsky said.
The agreement will help the Port of Virginia, for example, expand operating hours to ease congestion at container terminals. At seaports, CBP officers are responsible for conducting non-intrusive inspections of targeted containers using imaging technology and drive-through radiation portal monitors for trucks, as well as conducting physical exams and other enforcement measures.
El Paso has been reimbursing CBP for border services since 2013 as one of the initial launch partners for the program.
CBP is expected in October to open the application process for the next round of donation proposals.
This column was published in the September 2015 issue of American Shipper.