NOGALES, Ariz. — Government officials from two countries joined produce industry representatives Oct. 22 for the long-awaited groundbreaking for the new Mariposa Land Port of Entry in Nogales.

The existing port was built in the 1970s to handle about 400 trucks a day. But now, during the peak of the west Mexico produce season each winter, up to 1,600 trucks try to squeeze through the 30-acre site daily.

The new facility will feature 56 docks for offloading cargo for inspection, eight commercial lanes and 12 lanes for private vehicles, said J.B. Manson, chairman of the Greater Nogales and Santa Cruz County Port Authority and president of Pacific Brokerage Co. Inc. in Nogales.

The new 48-acre site also will have ample room for technology to conduct noninvasive inspections.

The port authority and Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas have been among those lobbying for a new port for at least five years, Manson said.

In 2007, the government allocated nearly $14 million to fund the design process for a new facility and the acquisition of about 17 additional acres.

Funding for actual construction was expected to be included in the 2009 budget but was delayed until the Obama administration released $199 million in economic stimulus funds for the project in March, said Allison Moore, FPAA communications director.

Construction could take up to four years, but contractors have pledged not to reduce the flow of traffic during that time, Manson said, and he expects inspections to actually increase by 50%.

The project was hailed as “an investment in the future” by Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer, who participated in the groundbreaking, along with other officials from the U.S. and Mexico.

Among more than 300 guests who attended the groundbreaking were: Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres; Victor Mendez, administrator, Federal Highway Administration; Jeff Neely, regional administrator, General Services Administration; Nogales Mayor Octavio Garcia and Manson.
Members of the Nogales produce industry were elated to hear that construction finally is under way.

“As a citizen of Nogales and as a representative of the industry, I’m very proud that this is getting done,” said Jaime Chamberlain, president of J-C Distributing, sales arm of Chamberlain Distributing Inc.

He lauded the port authority board of directors, the FPAA and others who helped push the project through.

Nogales officials break ground on new port of entry

Tom Burfield

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (second from right), and Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padres Elias (far right), were among dignitaries and about 300 guests on hand for the groundbreaking Oct. 22 at the new Mariposa Land Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz.