Truck safety (copy)

A truck carrying commercial goods from Mexico is inspected at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales.

In a document released last week, the federal government appeared to change course on a plan to build a new truck inspection facility at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales.

The revised Notice of Intent, dated May 15, seems to indicate that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will continue inspecting trucks in an existing Arizona Department of Transportation facility at the port.

“Based on scoping comments received, GSA has modified the proposed action to develop co-located truck inspection facilities within existing state-operated inspection facilities to the extent practicable and develop stand-alone federal facilities for the proposed bus inspection facilities where necessary,” the document stated.

The GSA – General Services Administration – is a federal agency that manages property for other government departments.

“This is a big win for our community and the other AZ port communities,” Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce Bracker wrote in an email. Local businesses and officials had opposed the project, saying it would slow down commercial traffic at the port.

The original proposal called for six new FMCSA facilities at five ports of entry in California and Arizona, including Mariposa. The revised plan includes new construction at just one site, in San Diego, Calif.

FMCSA inspectors have long worked out of an ADOT building at the Mariposa port, where the state agency also conducts its own inspections.

At a public hearing last July, Osmahn Kadri, a GSA representative, said that a new building at Mariposa was needed to give the FMCSA a permanent location at the port and to expand its capacity from two to eight truck inspection pits.

The plans quickly drew pushback from local importers. The Nogales City Council and Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors both passed resolutions declaring their opposition to the project.

“Having two separate truck safety inspection facilities would only contribute to the congestion at the port of entry and create a redundant system of repetitive inspections,” the city’s resolution stated.

Almost 350,000 commercial trucks entered the country at the Mariposa port in 2019, according to Bureau of Transportation statistics.

“Additional unwarranted and overzealous inspections with excessive fines would make Nogales’s $30 billion-a-year importation business less competitive and encourage industry to look to Texas and California over Nogales, Arizona,” the city resolution continued.

Last week’s Notice of Intent suggests the dispute is ending in an outcome that the government didn’t sound open to last year.

At the July hearing, Kadri told attendees that the project was ordered by Congress and the continued co-location for FMCSA at the ADOT facility would likely be impossible.

He said that the FMCSA would be willing to continue working at the ADOT facility if it could secure a 20-year lease, but the agency had “repeatedly” sought a long-term lease from ADOT, without success.

After the NI wrote about the meeting, GSA spokesman Andra Higgs sent an email asking to revise Kadri’s statement to say: “The current (contract) is working well for both sides and that one of the alternatives we would be continuing to explore is co-location.”

Higgs and Kadri didn’t immediately reply to requests for further information about the revised Notice of Intent, details about why the GSA changed its plans, or whether the FMCSA had inked a long-term contract with ADOT.

It’s also not clear if the government ever contacted Jorge Zaied, a Nogales, Sonora businessman who owns the property on which the government planned to locate the new building.

Greg Droeger, a lawyer for Zaied in Nogales, Ariz., said last year that Zaied hadn’t heard of the project before he was contacted by the NI.

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