Ducey sends $9M to help build new commerical border crossing in Douglas
In the final days of his administration, Arizona Gov Doug Ducey said Thursday he would allocate $8.9 million in federal funding to help build a new border crossing in Douglas, adding funds from the American Rescue Plan to develop wastewater and groundwater infrastructure.
For years, state and local officials have pushed to modernize the Raul H. Castro Port of Entry in Douglas, and build a new commercial crossing a few miles away to handle increasing traffic, including semi-tractor trailers. Beginning in 2019 and 2020, U.S. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Raúl Grijalva pushed for new funding and were joined by Arizona's Democratic senators to make Douglas a priority along the border.
Last year, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bipartisan bill that allocated nearly $1.2 trillion in spending for bridges, roads, rails and improvements to the nation's ports. As part of this legislation, $184 million was allocated to rehabilitate the Castro crossing in downtown Douglas, as well as another $216 million to build a new commercial port of entry.
The Castro Port of Entry, named for Arizona's first Mexican-American governor, was built in 1933 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. While it has undergone renovations, the crossing is unable to sustain the amount of trade that passes through it, said Ducey.
Cochise County officials said the new commercial port will be part of the Douglas International Commercial Corridor will help solve overcrowding, speed up lines, and mitigate "conflicts" between commercial trucks, pedestrians and passenger vehicles. This mirrors a similar arrangement in Nogales where the Mariposa Port of Entry serves commercial traffic several miles from the Dennis DeConcini border crossing in downtown Nogales.
According to a preliminary timeline, the first steps began this fall, and construction could begin as early as 2024. The Castro port upgrades will begin by 2028.
“One of my top priorities while in office has been to advance Arizona’s relationship with our neighbor Mexico," Ducey said. "A modernized port in Douglas will allow for increased trade, tourism, transportation and broadband, opening new pathways for economic collaboration. And beyond business, many people in Arizona have family ties in Mexico that go back generations. With better transportation options, these relationships and ties will flourish."
"Billions of dollars worth of goods pass through the Raul H. Castro port of entry in Douglas every year," said Douglas Mayor Donald Huish. "This investment will help our city modernize this vitally important trade route. This investment will promote trade and facilitate cross-border travel for visitors and tourists, major economic drivers for our community. We’re grateful to Governor Ducey for prioritizing Arizona’s relationship with Mexico."
Ducey allocated the funding from federal funding given to the state under the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by Biden in 2021. The funding was dedicated for water initiatives for wastewater, groundwater, and storage, Ducey said. The funding from the federal government through the state will help Douglas "fully leverage funding from the federal government to establish the additional port."
"All told, the complementing investments equal the single largest investment in the city in decades," Ducey said.
Last year, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly pushed for federal funding to build the new port, arguing the General Services Administration should make it a priority. "Completion of these projects will facilitate additional cross-border trade, improve our nation’s border security, and help our state and nation recover from COVID-19,” they wrote.
Around $29 billion worth of goods and services crossed through one of Arizona's ports in 2019, along with 8.5 million people. And, "despite border crossing restrictions," 423,000 commercial trucks passing through Arizona’s ports of entry in 2020, up from 416,000 in 2019, wrote Sienema and Kelly.
"Cross-border trade is critical to the national economy and can help us recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn," wrote Sinema and Kelly last year. "Ports of entry also play a critical role in protecting our communities and securing our border. Most seizures of illicit drugs at our border occur at ports of entry, and updated ports are better prepared to combat the flow of illegal goods and drugs."
In 2021, Douglas was the gateway for 28,745 trucks, 1.22 million cars, and 2.54 million total people, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Ducey said the two-port solution "builds upon the enormous trade relationship between Arizona and Mexico."
"This investment will energize Cochise County’s economy," said Cochise County Supervisor Ann English. "The port in Douglas is more than a stop on the road, it’s a gateway to revitalizing our economy, facilitating our positive trade relationship with our neighbors to the south. Thank you to Governor Ducey for helping to ease transportation with our biggest trading partner: Mexico."