TUCSON — Work could begin within four to six weeks on a $1.4 million upgrade of the Border Patrol’s interim checkpoint on Interstate 19 in southern Arizona.
Plans call for a modular building, a third paved lane for semitrailers, a paved and expanded area for secondary inspection, and a canopy that will cover the three lanes and secondary inspection area. Border agents use the checkpoint to stop and examine vehicles that are headed north from the U.S.-Mexico border.
John Fitzpatrick, division chief in the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, which covers most of the Arizona-Mexico border, said he’s hoping construction will be done by the end of summer.
More than two and a half years have passed since former Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., left office, paving the way for the Border Patrol to get a permanent checkpoint.
The Tucson sector — the busiest on the Southwest border for apprehensions and marijuana seizures — is the only one of nine sectors without a permanent checkpoint.
Kolbe championed congressionally mandated measures that withheld funding for permanent inspection stations and required that the stations be moved every seven or 14 days. He believed the surprise factor of temporary checkpoints made them more effective.
While the agency has been operating a makeshift fixed checkpoint under an overpass north of Tubac since November 2006, officials have struggled to get the interim facility up and keep plans for a permanent facility moving forward.
Some residents in the I-19 corridor have opposed a permanent checkpoint.
Opponents question the effectiveness of the stationary checkpoints, since there is no element of surprise, and worry that the strategy pushes smuggling activity into their neighborhoods.