PHOENIX – In a series of meetings with Mexican leaders in Mexico City this month, Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski and other state officials strengthened relationships and discussed ways to improve cross-border traffic, supporting enhanced commercial corridors.
In an unprecedented meeting with an Arizona delegation, a joint meeting of both senators and deputies in a Mexican senate conference room served to ensure a fully coordinated approach to issues of key interest. From that meeting, Mexican officials pledged to initiate a meeting in Sonora in the coming weeks to review the various projects needed for the Mexican side of the corridor to match improvements made or underway to the U.S. side of the ports of entry. This meeting will also include discussion of the need to provide more efficient enforcement within key trade corridors that improves security without unnecessarily discouraging trade.
The partnership with Mexico extends beyond the border. In meetings with Mexican leaders in Mexico City, Halikowski and the Governor’s Policy Advisor for Mexico Margie Emmermann, who is also the executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, stressed the need for binational cooperation and coordination on issues such as security, shared investments, rail, commercial enhancements and deep-water port expansion.
The group had meetings with some of the top leaders in Mexico City, including the senator Ernesto Gandara Camou, who chairs the Senate’s Commerce and Industrial Development Committee, and Manlio Fabio Beltrones, the deputy who leads the coalition of ruling parties in the Chamber of Deputies and is the former Governor of the state of Sonora.
“We extended the level of understanding and cooperation between our two countries. We wanted to meet with the decision makers, those leaders who will be instrumental in helping to advance the cause of cross-border coordination, investment and trade,” Halikowski said. “Forging working relationships with key members of the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto was one of our key objectives and I know we accomplished that.”
Mexico is a critical partner with Arizona, with $13.2 billion in bilateral trade occurring annually. That translates to 754,000 commercial trucks and 1,300 trains crossing the border each year – in addition to 15 million cars and 42.4 million people who crossed the border in 2012. As a result, mobility between Arizona and Mexico, as well as security, are critical issues.
Over the past six years, $450 million has been invested in improving border infrastructure in Arizona, including improvements to the ports of entry and adjacent roadways that support the efficient movement of commercial and non-commercial traffic. Currently, a $225 million project is underway by the U.S. General Services Administration to modernize and expand the Mariposa Port of Entry to speed the processing of commercial traffic between Mexico and the United States. These improvements include 12 vehicle lanes, eight commercial vehicle lanes, and facilities for buses and pedestrians. In addition to improvements at the port of entry, ADOT has invested $20 million in the area’s transportation infrastructure and is continuing to make additional improvements.