The number of lanes funneling people and commercial goods through the Mariposa Port of Entry and into Arizona will soon increase – and some are hoping the change will spur an expansion of cross-border trade as well.

The U.S. General Services Administration, the independent agency of the federal government overseeing the $184 million modernization and expansion of the Mariposa Port of Entry, said people should keep an eye out for a couple of changes next month.

Starting on April 29, there will be a “new traffic pattern” at the port, said Traci Madison, spokeswoman for the General Services Administration.

The addition of extra lanes will happen after hours on April 28, Madison said, and the agency wants to get the word out so travelers aren’t surprised at the change. The opening of additional lanes is part of the second phase of the four-phase, 216,000 square-foot project – one of the largest recipients of GSA’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars.

“Basically it’s a traffic advisory, so when they get there it’s not completely foreign,” Madison said, adding, that the changes won’t be too drastic and that there will be ample signage to direct motorists.

The number of lanes accommodating commercial traffic, once in the U.S., will double, from four to eight, Madison said. And, there will now be six lanes for POVs – privately owned vehicles – instead of four.

Under the current configuration, passenger and commercial vehicles enter the United States side-by-side through the center of the port. The new layout will send passenger vehicles to entry lanes on the west side of the port, and commercial trucks to the east side.

Pedestrians will continue to enter through the center.

J.B. Manson, chair of the Greater Nogales and Santa Cruz County Port Authority, which lobbied extensively for the port’s update, said he’s excited for this next step toward the completion of the project, scheduled for the spring of 2014.

“I think it’s a great thing we’re going from four lanes to eight lanes,” Manson said of the added cargo-traffic capacity. “That’s great for trade.”

If drivers start to notice shorter wait times at the border, Manson said, they’ll report back to others and eventually word will spread to other companies, who might consider relocating in the area.

But while that word-of-mouth process might take a while, Manson said, there’s something locals can do now – talk up the port.

“I think it’s up to us, the community, to really promote this port. I think that’s how we’ll attract new business,” Manson said.

And, it’s not just the locals he thinks need to speak up.

“Right now is a critical time where there has to be some promotion at the state level,” Manson said, adding that the port authority has reached out to several state politicians and asked them to help promote the Mariposa Port of Entry, as companies can chose from various ports. “We’re seeing a lot of competition state to state,” Manson said.

Like the extra commercial lanes, Manson hopes the two extra POV lanes will help speed things up a bit, too. He said he thinks the area will really benefit when all 12 lanes are open, though.

In the meantime, Madison said, the GSA is working to keep everyone up-to-date on the port’s status so traffic can flow as freely as possible during the construction.  

“We are communicating with all the stakeholders just to make sure they’re aware,” Madison said. “We want to make sure it’s fresh in everyone’s mind.”