Local business representatives ripped into a federal government plan to build a new vehicle inspection facility near the Mariposa Port of Entry during a public hearing last week.
Ten community members – including representatives from local produce, trucking and importing industries – attended the July 18 meeting at the Holiday Inn Express in Nogales, at which a representative from the federal General Services Administration (GSA) presented plans for a four-lane truck inspection site that would be used by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA).
Almost all of the attendees opposed the plans, asserting that the new facility was unnecessary and would increase wait times for trucks going through the port.
“Nobody’s asking for this,” said Jose Valencia, co-owner of import/export firm Valencia International.
The Mariposa project is one of six new inspection facilities planned at ports of entry in Arizona and California for the FMCSA, which conducts selective inspections on vehicles entering the United States.
At the Mariposa port, the FMCSA currently leases inspection space at an existing Arizona Department of Transportation facility, which also inspects cross-border trucks.
In Nogales, 337,000 trucks entered the United States in 2018, according to Bureau of Transportation Statistics data. Commercial trucks crossing through Nogales use the Mariposa port.
Osmahn Kadri, who presented the government’s plans at the meeting, said that the new facility is needed to give the FMCSA a permanent location at the port and expand its capacity from two to eight truck inspection pits.
“We’re building for 25 years into the future,” he said.
But the new facility would also mean an additional stop for trucks that get targeted for FMCSA inspection, potentially slowing the flow of traffic and goods.
“In order for us to be competitive, we have to look for efficiencies,” said Guillermo Valencia, a Valencia International co-owner and chairman of the Greater Nogales-Santa Cruz County Port Authority.
The meeting was tense at times, with Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce Bracker noting a history of bad blood between local industry and the FMCSA
“Nobody in this community trusts them,” he said.
Bracker, who has frequently taken stands on policy favored by the local import-export industry, was joined by County Supervisors Rudy Molera and Manuel Ruiz in voting to oppose the project at the board of supervisors’ July 17 meeting.
But Kadri told attendees at the July 18 hearing that the project was ordered by Congress and 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.
Two U.S. Border Patrol agents were also present at the hearing and said that they wanted the government to preserve a dirt access road used by the agency in the area of the proposed project.
Mayor Arturo Garino, who did not attend the hearing, told the NI that he had received information about the event but had not looked into the plans in detail.