In an effort to reduce traffic tie-ups at the border, officials said Thursday that car-pool lanes will be installed starting Monday for motorists entering the United States via the San Ysidro port of entry.
Authorities from both the United States and Mexico plan to inaugurate the car-pool venture at 10 a.m. Monday.
Undera the car-pool initiative, which has been under discussion for several months, vehicles with four or more passengers may utilize the newly designated lanes. The number of such lanes will vary, said Bobbie Cassidy, a spokeswoman in San Diego for the U.S. Customs Service, but outside lanes at both the left and right will be marked off for car-pool traffic.
"We're hoping that we won't have so many cars to deal with in the future," Cassidy said, explaining the reason behind the car-pool idea.
The number of car-pool lanes available will vary according to the volume of traffic, Cassidy said.
More than 50 million people enter the United States annually at San Ysidro, and the number is rising each year, government figures show. U.S. officials call the site the world's busiest land border. Traffic delays of one hour or more are commonplace.
Critics from both sides of the border have called on U.S. customs and immigration officials to post more personnel at the border posts. But authorities say they are understaffed and have no inspectors to spare.
Both the car-pool lanes and booths handling car-pool vehicles will be clearly marked, the Customs spokeswoman said. Motorists crossing the border are being given flyers explaining the program, Cassidy said. Law enforcement officers from both nations will help in orienting motorists, she added.
Violators face fines of $236 from California Highway Patrol officers, who will be enforcing the regulation, Cassidy set.
The car-pool lanes will be in place 24 hours a day from Monday through Friday, officials said. However, the lanes will be withdrawn on Saturdays and Sundays, when a higher percentage of vehicles carry four or more people, officials said.
The car-pool initiative is unfolding at a time when federal repair crews are getting ready to shut four of the 24 existing traffic lanes at San Ysidro for removal of toxic asbestos at the port facility above. The four lanes will be closed for an estimated 18 months, officials said. The shutdown is expected to begin in August.