SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Vehicle SENTRI lanes at the Otay Mesa passenger port of entry will close two hours earlier starting Sunday as result of decreased traffic volume, U.S. officials announced.
SENTRI is the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection that provides expedited border processing of pre-approved travelers considered low-risk.
Starting Sunday, new operating hours for SENTRI vehicle lanes will be from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced Friday.
The Otay Mesa passenger border crossing is open 24 hours per day. SENTRI members will be able to use the Ready Lanes at the crossing, designated for travelers with RFID-enabled documents. This is a change to the passenger portion of the port of entry; there are no changes to the cargo/commercial facility at the port of entry hours, officials said.
On April 5, CBP officials announced changes to hours of operation at select ports of entry along the California/Mexico border, in response to decreased traffic volumes because of COVID-19 and restrictions against non- essential travel.
On April 20, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada agreed to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for an additional 30 days.
CBP officials have experienced a significant decrease in the volume of northbound traffic arriving at the Otay Mesa border crossing, with a 43% decrease in vehicle traffic and a 69% decrease in pedestrians in recent months.
"We had previously scaled staffing at the nearby San Ysidro port of entry because of significant drops in traffic volumes," CBP Director of Field Operations for San Diego Pete Flores said. "Continued decreases in traffic has necessitated adjustments at the Otay passenger border crossing to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure to our workforce and to enable us to devote resources to combating the criminal element that may try to take advantage of the crisis to further their illegal enterprises, such as outbound inspections."
Overall, there has been a decrease in northbound traffic at all the land ports of entry on the California border with Mexico. The week of March 2 compared to last week there was an average decrease of 52% in vehicle crossings for a daily average of more than 42,000 vehicles.
The CPB also experienced an average decrease of 76% in pedestrians crossing, with a daily average of almost 14,000.
In addition, last week, 90% to 94% of travelers entering in vehicles and on foot were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, officials said.
On March 21, CBP introduced temporary restrictions that limit entry at the U.S. northern and southern land borders to persons engaged in essential travel, including lawful trade, emergency response, and public health purposes.
Essential travel includes, but is not limited to:
-- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the United States;
-- Individuals traveling to receive medical treatment;
-- Individuals traveling to attend educational institutions;
-- Individuals traveling to work in the United States;
-- Individuals traveling for emergency response and public health purposes;
-- Individuals engaged in lawful cross-border trade (truck drivers);
-- Individuals engaged in official government travel or diplomatic travel;
-- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and the spouses and children of members of the U.S. Armed Forces, returning to the United States;
-- Individuals engaged in military-related travel or operations.