El Paso, Texas (Border Report) – Federal officials say new construction at the Bridge of the Americas will not delay motorists seeking to return to the United States from Mexico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on March 8 will begin construction on a system that will scan passenger vehicles approaching inspection booths at the port of entry. This is the first step of a regional upgrade of border inspection technology that will include other ports in the El Paso Sector in months to come.
“The Low Energy Portal system will scan arriving traffic and the imagery generated will be used by CBP to identify potential threats in a timely and efficient manner,” said El Paso Port Director Ray Provencio. “The systems will supplement existing non-intrusive inspection technology, enhance border security, and will not impede current traffic flows or wait times.”
Construction will begin on the west side of the bridge and move east during installation. Port traffic will be routed around construction zones but access to all 14 inspection booths will remain, CBP said. Contractors plan to work during the night to further reduce any impact on northbound vehicle traffic. “The goal is to have construction completed by late April with implementation to begin in the early summer,” CBP said in a statement.
The plan is for CBP to scan all arriving vehicles with the LEP system after they cross the international boundary and before they reach the primary inspection booth. Motorists have the option to opt out of driving through the scanners and have their vehicle inspected through existing protocols, CBP said.
CBP utilizes non-intrusive inspection equipment to aid in the detection of illicit narcotics. The NII systems program helps detect contraband, including firearms, weapons of mass effect or destruction, drugs, currency, and other illegal merchandise, from entering the United States.
The new devices will increase the rate of inspection of vehicles coming into the United States through ports of entry, which is where the Mexican drug cartels send most of their product through, according to experts and drug seizure data. The money for the LEP systems comes from a $59 million Congressional appropriation in response to the Securing America’s Ports Act of 2020.
The act dating back to the Trump administration provides for border inspection technology that includes handheld and baggage X-rays, density meters and devices for identifying chemicals.
In addition to the Bridge of the Americas LEP system, CBP will also place the systems at the Ysleta, Santa Teresa, Fort Hancock, Tornillo and Presidio crossings in the months ahead, the agency said.
CBP is also adding Cargo Multi Energy Portal (MEP) scanning systems in the cargo areas. The first MEP system in the El Paso area is under construction at the Santa Teresa port of entry. MEP systems are also slated for cargo facilities at the Bridge of the Americas, Presidio and Columbus ports.
New high energy rail scanning systems are planned at the two international rail crossings in south El Paso adjacent to the Paso Del Norte International Bridge.