SANTA TERESA, New Mexico (Border Report) – The federal government is pitching in $45 million to improve the flow of commercial and passenger traffic from the Santa Teresa Port of Entry and nearby industrial parks to the Texas border.

The Department of Transportation grant is being used for roads including the planned New Mexico Border Highway Connector, which state officials say will encourage development and bring more revenue to the region.

“It’s going to be a game-changer. It’s going to make the entire region – Santa Teresa, Sunland Park, Ciudad Juarez and El Paso – stronger, more efficient and allow for greater connectivity,” said Marco Grajeda, executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority.

More than 650 trucks cross the border at Santa Teresa, bringing from Mexico anything from computer boards and automotive parts to 100-foot-long blades for wind turbines. The trucks must travel 13 miles on Pete Domenici Highway, then Artcraft Road to reach Interstate 10 in El Paso. That’s fine if the trucks are headed west, but the connector should speed up eastbound traffic to El Paso’s Border West Expressway or I-10 East.

It should also give motorists headed to Sunland Park an option other than cutting through Airport Road and Santa Teresa High School on their way to NM 273 (McNutt Road).

“We’re still in the initial stages but we are already fully funded,” Grajeda said. “The main goal is to connect it to one of the El Paso highways. [….] We’re working with Texas and the Municipal Planning Organization to fine-tune that last connection. What we eventually see is an efficient loop connecting all of the ports of entry.”

Draft of the Border Highway Connector (courtesy New Mexico Border Authority)

The exact path of the Border Highway Connector is yet to be defined. One option is to extend New Mexico Highway 9 from Pete Domenici through the desert between the border wall and behind the urban sprawl of Sunland Park and connect to El Paso through Racetrack Drive, which ends at Doniphan Drive. That option also would create a clear path for trucks and motorists crossing the border at the Columbus, New Mexico, port of entry.

“We have three land ports of entry. At Santa Teresa we cross a lot of industrial products from the industrial base in Juarez and El Paso; in Columbus we get a lot of agricultural products; at Antelope Wells we’re working with the Mexican government to finish a road and get more use out of that port,” Grajeda said.

The Border Industrial Association said it welcomes the project.

“This highway will benefit many industries as companies will have another alternative route to connect to the industrial parks and the port of entry,” said BIA’s Susana Cisneros. “It will help facilitate the route to work and connection to Mexico for Sunland Park residents, too.”