“Douglas port is choking off legitimate trade in Cochise County,” public private partnership sought

douglasThe city of Douglas wants to form a public/private partnership to fund an expansion of the community’s 82-year-old port of entry. The city has won the support of Congressman Ron Barber, who is urging the feds to approve an application from Douglas officials that would allow the city to work with private entities to expand the port.

“The port’s infrastructure has not been significantly upgraded in recent years,” Barber wrote to officials with Customs and Border Protection and the General Service Administration. “Furthermore, it lacks operational characteristics that would enable enhanced inspection and safe access for pedestrians and vehicular traffic, making it difficult to safely and efficiently process people and goods into this country.”

Barber noted that the port is so busy that positions for 25 additional Customs officers were funded. But until the physical infrastructure also is upgraded, legitimate commerce cannot flow freely, Barber said.

The port, at the international border adjacent to downtown Douglas, was built in 1932 when Herbert Hoover was president and only 435,000 people lived in Arizona. The federal government declared the port “wholly inadequate” several years ago – but because of a lack of funds, it is years away from being expanded and brought into the 21st century.

Douglas officials decided they could not wait and are seeking permission to form a public/private partnership to raise money for the expansion.

Under federal policy, Customs and Border Protection and the General Services Administration may accept donations of real or personal property or non-personal services to be used for construction, alterations, operation, or maintenance of a new or existing port of entry.

Barber supported establishment of that policy in the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. He also voted to support expansion of the policy in the DHS appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014.

Expansion of the Douglas port is an issue that Barber has been working on for years – first as district director for then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and since mid-2012 as a member of Congress. Barber has been working with Douglas Mayor Danny Ortega and other city officials and stakeholders to explore ways of getting the port expanded.

In a 2013 op-ed in the Sierra Vista Herald, Barber wrote: “The Douglas port is choking off legitimate trade in Cochise County and costing the city, county and state untold millions in lost revenue because cargo can’t pass through in a timely manner. A semi full of produce that spoils waiting to enter the U.S. can cost the shipper tens of thousands of dollars – not to mention the vast waste of fuel and time from frustrated truckers and travelers.”

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