Last-chance border U-turn is difficult to locate

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 made a startling discovery when it comes to how easily drivers could end up in Mexico while looking for a last-chance U-turn.

10News viewers tweeted about those concerns amid our coverage of a Marine veteran jailed in Tijuana after claims he missed an exit and ended up in Mexico

For Andrew Tahmooressi, it was the road of no return. Unfamiliar with the area and trying to meet a friend in San Ysidro, Tahmooressi says he drove past the signs saying last exit on April 1 and into Mexico with registered firearms in his truck.

In the inspection line, he called his mother.

"He said, 'Mom, I'm calling because I made a wrong turn and I got lost,'" said Jill Tahmooressi.

After the story, we received tweets and Facebook posts by those who have made the same mistake.

Why so easy? In years past, we found footage of a clear U-turn that gives drivers one last chance to turn around just before entering Mexico.                    

But in 2012, Mexico built a new port of entry in a new location, changing the path into the country.

So how would that affect the last chance U-turn? Team 10 reporter Michael Chen went to find out. The following is his firsthand account:

With a camera mounted on my dashboard, I drove past the last exit and through these barriers.  

When I spotted the small U-turn sign, there was a gate to the left, so I kept driving, looking for a U-turn ahead.

Moments later, I suspected the sharp right turn would lead to the inspection lane, so when traffic cleared, I backed up to the location of the small sign, got up and got the attention of the customs agent in a booth.

I asked him where the U-turn was and he said, "Right here."

He lifted the gate, revealing the mystery U-turn and allowing me to turn around.

Team 10 brought our concerns to the General Services Administration, the federal agency overseeing the ongoing San Ysidro Port of Entry expansion project.

In an email, a spokesperson said:

"There are a number of signs along I-5 south identifying Camino de la Plaza as the last U.S. exit and the distance to the border.

If a traveler misses the last exit, there is one final U-turn lane on the left with a sign posted that reads U-turn, return to U.S. and a manned gate which can be used instead of crossing the border into Mexico."

The spokesperson did say they would look into ways to make the U-turn more prominent.

Team 10 scrolled through the footage of our drive and a few feet before the small U-turn sign, there is blue sign to the far left. Because of other signs and obstructions and the angle of the sign, we could only see an arrow on the sign but we could not see what was on the sign.

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