In hopes of improving the region’s economy, authorities in El Paso have launched a binational plan to reduce wait times in the lines of people entering the United States from Mexico at the border crossing.

A task force reached an agreement with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to measure, using GPS technology, the wait times experienced by people at the international crossing points, El Paso Mayor John Cook told Efe.

Cook mentioned that currently the wait times are registered by CBP using non-scientific methods, and he said that the agency agreed to install GPS technology at the crossing points and use the resulting data collected to determine the true wait times.

The mayor said that the group will have as its objective designing strategies and making recommendations to facilitate entry into the country, presenting suggestions to federal authorities and later ensuring that the measures are adopted.

Municipal authorities said that on an average day, people entering the United States from neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, must wait up to two hours, a situation that has discouraged Mexicans from shopping in El Paso.

Cook said that the creation of the binational group - in which the Juarez mayor's office, Mexico's customs service and the Association of Maquiladoras (cross-border assembly plants) are participating - comes in response to the results of a study that showed that when people have to wait two hours or longer to enter the United States, the crossing points stop functioning properly.

Facilitating the traffic flow at the crossing points has become a crucial point in the political campaigns of the two men battling for the Democratic nomination to represent this part of Texas in Congress: veteran incumbent Silvestre Reyes and challenger Beto O'Rourke, a former mayor of El Paso.

A study by the U.S. Commerce Department found that El Paso will lose $300 million in tax revenue, 11,500 jobs, $600 million in salaries and $2.6 billion in exports over the next five years if it does nothing to resolve the border problem.

In one of his campaign ads, O'Rourke mentions the study and says Reyes has not done enough to address and solve the problem.

Reyes claims that he participated in the activities to get the government to authorize funds for the hiring of 250 additional CBP inspectors to make possible the opening of a greater number of customs review stations at the border crossing points, adding that he is currently working on a proposal to budget funds for 300 more inspectors.

Cook's office says that approximately 20,000 jobs and about $7 billion have been lost due to the congestion at the international crossing points.

The Transportation Department has determined that the crossing points will reach their maximum capacity within the next few years, after which they will no longer be able to handle the anticipated traffic unless measures are taken to remedy the situation.

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