El Paso braces for possible lifting of border travel restrictions in October
City wants to avoid traffic jams and long wait times at border crossings due to pent-up demand from Mexico
EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The city of El Paso braces for an increase in the number of overnight border crossings after the federal government lifts non-essential travel restrictions – what local authorities say could happen in late October.
“At the moment, we are cautiously optimistic (the restrictions) will be released by next month,” said David Coronado, director general of international bridges and economic development. “We still don’t know if this is going to happen or not, but we continue to work with US Customs and Border Protection and Aduanas (of Mexico) to prepare for this increased number of crossings.”
The United States, Mexico and Canada have maintained non-essential land travel restrictions since March 2020 to minimize the cross-border spread of COVID-19. The Department of Homeland Security recently extended the restrictions until October 21 and did not say when they will be lifted.
The ban has cost some businesses in downtown El Paso that depend on Mexican buyers about half of their customers, officials said.
Coronado said El Paso’s economy continues to recover to pre-pandemic levels despite the restrictions and is expected to strengthen with an influx of spending from south of the border.
“Despite the restrictions, we are seeing positive signs in the occupation of businesses and hotels. We’re in the high occupancy rate of 70 (percent), which is higher than the US and Texas, ”Coronado told a working session on Monday of the City Council. “We expect a much stronger recovery once the restrictions are lifted. It’s just a matter of when. […] We continue to monitor it and have asked DHS and the White House to warn us days in advance as we need to be ready “for an increase in level crossings.
Such a spike would come from Mexicans who have not been able to visit specialty stores and malls on the U.S. side in 18 months or visit family members in El Paso. Coronado said traffic jams are already appearing at the Stanton Street Bridge heading south.
El Paso’s preparations for increased traffic include the full restoration of the PPP program, in which the city reimburses U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the cost of keeping border crossing lanes open during peak hours, and traffic controls to avoid traffic jams near international bridges between El Paso and Juarez , in Mexico.
“We need at least two to three days (notice) before the reopening. The last thing we want to see is that the bridge system is over capacity and has congestion issues on the bridges, ”he said.
Coronado told the council that commercial truck crossings from Juarez to El Paso have returned to pre-pandemic levels and, in fact, are up 1% from July 2018. Crossings for pedestrians and vehicles are still down but increased in August compared to July because the resumption of in-person classes at El Paso School attracted significant numbers of students from Juarez.
Unemployment fell to 5.8% after hovering nearly 15% last spring, and the July state sales tax allowance for El Paso reflects a 20% increase in July from year to year. the other, he said. El Paso’s job gains are significant in the construction industry and education, with schools back in full session.
“Sales and (economic) activity in El Paso and consumer spending continue to exceed levels of two or three years ago. We are seeing positive signs of recovery in the region, ”he said.