Imagine Petco Park filled to its capacity of 42,000-plus people.
That is how many more jobs the San Diego-Baja California region could have supported in 2005 had it not been for sluggish truck traffic at the international border crossings.
Waits of two hours or more drain the local economies, according to research released last week by the San Diego Association of Governments. Sandag said that number is poised to grow to 104,146 jobs by 2014 if nothing is done to remedy the situation.
The economic impact of those waits was $4.2 billion in 2005 in both San Diego County and Baja California. The number could grow to $9.98 billion in 2014, Sandag said.
By itself, San Diego County business output was stunted by $2.71 billion in 2005 due to delays in people and freight crossing the border.
Sandag came up with its figures by studying data from government and private industry. Its researchers complemented that by interviewing corporate officials. The agency found “a pretty close correlation” between the data and the interviews, said Sandag Executive Director Gary Gallegos.
The waits affect large companies such as Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc. and dj Orthopedics, which both have factories in Baja California, as well as the Mexican tomato farmer trying to get his perishable product to markets in the United States, said Elisa Arias, a senior transportation planner for Sandag.
Delays at Otay Mesa are just as important as the much-publicized delays at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Arias said. She added that this is particularly true if parts have to go across the border several times, or if companies use techniques such as just-in-time manufacturing , where, in Arias’ words, a shipping container functions as a “movable warehouse.”
No Special Orders
Arias said she learned that dj Orthopedics, a Vista-based company that makes braces and other medical devices, cannot make special orders in Tijuana and guarantee a 24-hour turnaround because of the border delay. Therefore, the company has to make special orders in North County.
Gallegos said an investment in infrastructure could expedite trade and do another large thing that concerns the government , secure the homeland.
“We can do both,” he said.
Yet Gallegos warned that an investment on the U.S. side of the border alone will not accomplish the goal.
Sandag called for financing and building new highway infrastructure at Otay Mesa, including the completion of state Route 905 and the building of a second Otay Mesa crossing point, east of the current border crossing.
The agency also said that people crossing the border would be willing to pay a toll if delays could be reduced. Sandag released results of a survey that found 59.4 percent of respondents would be willing to pay $3 to cross at the proposed East Otay Mesa border crossing.
Some $23 billion worth of goods crossed the border at Otay Mesa and Tecate during 2004, according to Sandag.
The California Department of Transportation helped Sandag develop the model to measure the economic impact of border delays.