The General Services Administration (GSA) of the US government is planning to spend $3.4bn on a programme of work to upgrade 26 ports of entry on the borders with Canada and Mexico.
The work, which will be part of the Biden $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, is intended to cut the time taken to process goods and people on their way into the US.
Mitch Landrieu, the White House’s infrastructure coordinator, told a press conference last week that the US’ competitiveness was being hurt by a history of underinvestment in its ports of entry.
He said: “Most land ports operate at full capacity and have surpassed the needs for which they were designed.”
Robin Carnahan, an administrator with the GSA, said the land ports selected for modernisation had an average age of 40 years and most had not been upgraded to deal with increases in traffic in recent years.
He said: “What that means, of course, is longer wait times at these borders for the 160,000 passenger vehicles and 34,000 trucks that cross every day carrying billions of dollars in goods.”
He added that the upgrades would expand capacity and introduce technology to process traffic and increase energy efficiency. As well as processing goods and people, the new systems will be able to identify high-risk activity and shipments.
While the projects will vary in terms of speed and complexity, the GSA expects to award some contracts before the end of the year.
The GSA owns 102 land ports of entry along the northern and southern borders, and has completed several one-off upgrades in recent years.