Douglas Port of Entry

Cars snake through the tight primary processing area at the Douglas port of entry. More than 3 million vehicles make the crossing annually.

A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

The federal government has finally acknowledged what Douglas residents have known for years — the Raúl Héctor Castro Port of Entry needs to be expanded.

The acknowledgment comes with not only words but action: Congress has fully funded a feasibility study to modernize the aging port as well as look at building a new commercial port a few miles away.

Rep. Martha McSally announced the full funding for the study this week, stressing that it is already available and in the current budget.

“This is pretty exciting news,” McSally said. “It is the next important step toward funding the actual project. This shows their willingness to invest their resources.”

The study, which will take six to nine months to complete, is a precursor to federal funding for massive renovations to the current port of entry, which was built in 1933.

Annually, 7.6 million people cross on foot and 3.2 million cars drive through the port, generating an estimated $4 billion in economic activity.

McSally says she will begin advocating for funding for the improvements to be included in the next fiscal cycle, saying the local economy is hampered by what can be up to a two-hour wait at the border.

A price tag to renovate the existing Douglas port of entry and build a new commercial entrance is not known, but the federal government lists the project in their five-year plans.

The federal government spent nearly $200 million to renovate the Mariposa Port of Entry, which was built in 1973 in Nogales.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson