SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — People who live in Tijuana but work north of the border have been experiencing longer-than-normal wait times in recent weeks when driving back into Mexico at night.

“A few months ago, people started asking, ‘What’s going on?” said Joaquín Luken, executive director of the Smart Border Coalition, which aims to improve travel through the ports of entry in the San Diego-Tijuana binational region.

Luken said the Mexican Army, now in charge of the crossing on the Tijuana side of the border, is not opening all the 20 available traffic lanes.

The Army has said an ongoing project to add more technology at the crossing is forcing them to shut lanes during construction.

But Luken says you really can’t see anything out of the ordinary except for fewer lanes that are open.

“These past months, at times, we’ve seen two or three lanes open and maybe six or seven. … Just imagine fewer lanes,” he said. “It’s just been pretty interesting with the wait times.”

Cars heading into Tijuana on the southbound lanes of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)
Southbound lanes at San Ysidro Port of Entry. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

Luken goes on to say the nightly delays are now affecting people’s quality of life.

“Every day in the San Diego County area, 40,000 people make their way from Tijuana to San Diego and back,” he said. “Heading northbound, people know what to expect. So now you’re tacking on another 40 minutes heading southbound on the freeway only to find a two-and-a-half hour or two-hours and 45-minute border wait that you weren’t expecting.”

Joaquin Luken is the executive director of the Smart Border Coalition in San Diego. (Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

Luken said there are other contributing factors, including the closure of a damaged bridge just south of the border that normally leads cars away from the crossing during rush hour.

The city of Tijuana says work on the bridge is expected to be done by late spring.

Another, albeit minor factor generating longer southbound border waits according to Luken, is the amount of people who now work north of the border but live in Tijuana.

“Tijuana has been a bigger and better option for people in San Diego that can’t afford rent, can’t afford to live in San Diego, which makes sense, but obviously that comes with a price, you see more people crossing and more wait times.”