Pedestrians Crossing Border May Face Closures

POSTED: 5:02 pm PDT June 5, 2007
UPDATED: 6:28 pm PDT June 5, 2007

SAN DIEGO -- The war on terror is causing an uproar in San Ysidro, where a busy pedestrian bridge that crosses Interstate 5 may be closed for several hours a day.

For travelers on the trolley, the bridge is the last stop on the U.S. side of the border. Thousands of tourists and workers walk across the footbridge and pass through turnstiles into Mexico or back into the United States.

"You know, if San Diego is America's finest city, we want San Ysidro to be America's finest front door," said San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Wells.

Homeland Security officials, however, are concerned that the bridge is a security risk. The department maintains that criminals and smugglers can spy from the bridge into secondary inspection lanes below and that it can be unsafe for pedestrians.

"People are robbed on that bridge," said Adele Fasano, the director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "There even have been rapes on the bridge, stabbings on the bridge. As I said, there's an incident at least several times a week."

Authorities cite those as reasons that may prompt the closure of the bridge for several hours at night.

One area business owner, however, told NBC 7/39 that he depends on that pedestrian traffic for his livelihood and that even brief closures could ruin him.

Business may not be the only casualty, either, reported NBC 7/39. If the foot-bridge is closed, pedestrians will have to walk north on San Ysidro Boulevard and cross a different bridge, one that is built predominantly to accommodate vehicle traffic, not pedestrians.

"You're pulling thousands of people, making them walk longer distances, putting them in harm's way, with traffic and possible crime at night -- that's unnecessary," Wells said.

Criticism of the plan may be having an impact. At a news conference on Tuesday, Fasano said that no changes will be made without officials having heard what people who use it every day have to say.