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Antelope Wells port sees little traffic

Border Patrol agents work under a newly built canopy to inspect cars leaving the U.S. at Columbus. Plans call for spending up to $66 million to improve New Mexico’s oldest border crossing. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Border Patrol agents work under a newly built canopy to inspect cars leaving the U.S. at Columbus. Plans call for spending up to $66 million to improve New Mexico’s oldest border crossing. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

EL BERRENDO, Mexico – The $11 million port of entry just over the border in New Mexico looks immaculate, and little used, from the vantage point of the dirt road in Mexico that leads to the crossing.

It’s been nearly a year since the new Antelope Wells port of entry was opened. Only a handful of cars trickle over the border daily at this crossing, which is among the U.S.-Mexico’s border’s tiniest in terms of traffic. Few vehicles veer off Mexico’s busy Highway 2 onto the dirt path that cuts across ranch land and ends at this crossing that is far from anywhere, even by New Mexico standards.

The crossing is so little used that U.S. Customs and Border Protections doesn’t bother to report annual traffic. Between four and a dozen vehicles cross daily, on average, CBP spokesman Rubén Jauregui says.

In the outpost known as El Berrendo – which consists of nothing more than a small customs building, a few cinder block barracks, a dusty yard for clothes lines and a horse corral – a Mexican soldier leaning on a fence says it’s usually just four vehicles: passenger vans headed for Deming or Arizona.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent Tim Balderston at the Antelope Wells crossing from Mexico. The entry port processes only a handful of cars a day. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent Tim Balderston at the Antelope Wells crossing from Mexico. The entry port processes only a handful of cars a day. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

A paved road promised by Mexico to connect Highway 2 to Berrendo and the Antelope Wells crossing has taken years to materialize, but a first stretch is now under construction – and that could deliver a small boost in traffic, according to Bill Mattiace, executive director of the New Mexico Border Authority.

Luis Huerta Rincon, construction superintendent of Mexican contractor Gexiq S.A. de C.V., was recently overseeing the paving of the first piece of the new road. The contract for another five miles of roadway, which will connect the highway with the border, is expected to soon go out to bid, he said.

But, for now, it’s still a dirt road to an $11 million facility on the U.S. side, staffed permanently by a single CBP agent, Tim Balderston.

One recent afternoon, before Balderston shut the gate to the U.S. at 4 p.m., he carried out a bag of dog food to feed what are likely the port’s most frequent crossers: a trio of strays who rushed to greet him.

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