DOUGLAS, Ariz. (KGUN) — Year by year, the Douglas port of entry makes improvements to modernize. However, the biggest changes Mayor Donald Huish is waiting on, such as a major overhaul and a separate commercial port, make it federal funding this year.
“As soon as they say it's funded, we're running,” said Huish.
The Raul H. Castro port of entry is outdated and overburdened.
“The last major renovation was done in 1993. So it's just been very minor things that have been done these past few years,” said Huish.
A major concern for the current port is the use of hazardous waste transported by tanker trucks and semis. Huish wants a separate commercial port that will take truck traffic out of Douglas’ downtown area, and take the waste as far away from residents as possible.
“We literally have to shut down the port of entry for hours at a time, to move everything out of the way to make some adjustments of overhead things to be able to get those through. But, it's just not a good situation,” said Huish.
The commercial port will be four miles west of Douglas city limits and will cost about $175,000 to build.
“In fact, we're hopeful that with the recent proposal by President Biden for infrastructure, that we will be able to receive funding through that. And then they need to modernize the existing port of entry for another $125,000-$150,000 to be able to handle people like you and I that would just want to cross and either visit family or take advantage of old Mexico,” said Huish.
Huish is fairly confident, saying if the approval doesn’t fall into this year’s infrastructure funding hopefully it will next year. Twill be a major economic boom for the city of Douglas.
“I can't stress enough the importance of this for not only Douglas but the entire state. We currently crossed about $4 billion worth of goods through our little port of entry right here. And we anticipate that that will over, once it's built over those five years, it will double,” said Huish.
Some improvements on his list, Huish says the port as it is now is inadequate to process and hold people; those seeking asylum and those who break the law.
The commercial port is set to have climate-controlled inspection so good, such as produce, aren’t sitting out in the open.
“And all those bells and whistles and hoops that you all have to go through, has to happen at a federal level. We're also in contact with our counterparts in Mexico, on both a local, state and national level,” said Huish.
With support from both Arizona senators, congresswoman Kirkpatrick, governor Doug Ducey and neighboring states, Huish says the city of Douglas is just waiting for the green light from the feds.
“It'll be the shot in the arm that Douglas has never seen. We understand we're in the corner of the state. But this creates so many more possibilities to be able to enhance our trade with Mexico,” said Huish.
Huish says what makes the Douglas port of entry unique to others is that it’s not as congested.
He’s hoping the upgrades will have more people pass through, but in a way that will still allow traffic to pass through efficiently.
“As we become modernized and become the state of the art, people are going to want to come through here. And you know, our other ports of entry and San Luis and Nogales. We all have issues, we all need improvements. And so as we work together in for the state of Arizona, the good of the state of Arizona, I think we all benefit,” said Huish.
Once federal funding is approved, the updates and commercial port of entry is expected to be completed within the next five years.