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City updated on bridge wait time program

El Paso is doing all it can to improve wait times and technology at international bridges.

On Tuesday, city council learned there’s been an increase in traffic at the three international bridges the city owns, despite a 50-cent increase in tolls.

El Paso’s new Public-Private-Partnership, or P3, allows the city to reimburse U.S. Customs and Border Protection for overtime provided to officers to open more lanes during peak times at the Paso Del Norte and Ysleta bridges, as long as that reimbursement does not exceed $2.5 million.

“So far it’s working fairly well,” bridge director Paul Stresow said. “In the first year of our pilot program, we’ve seen positive improvements even though we’ve seen huge increases in the amount of traffic coming through the border.”

That’s music to District 8 City Representative Cortney Niland’s ears, who said it’s important to encourage cargo trade coming through El Paso.

“We’re competing against McAllen. We’re competing all along this border,” Niland said. “The more competitive we can get, the more investment you’ll see in this community.”

Additional toll revenue from the program is funding bridge infrastructure improvements and traffic management, including the implementation of Bluetooth readers already at the Zaragoza port of entry that can pick up cell phones or vehicles signals.

“It’s not identified by the person but the unique Bluetooth ID and then that’s how you’re able to calculate when it started and when it exited the cue,” Stresow said. He said the biggest improvement is at the Paso Del Norte, where they saw 52,000 vehicles processed in 15 minutes or less.

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