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When I was writing this story about the planned revamping of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, I tried to get in touch with Rep. Bob Filner, who represents San Ysidro and has apparently been taking the lead on the project.

I didn’t talk to him before my deadline, but Filner just called in and offered me his comments on what’s happening down in San Ysidro.

Filner said a revamping of the port of entry is essential, not just for San Ysidro, but for the whole region.

“It’s very, very important, just as long as they don’t exacerbate the problems that already exist,” Filner said. “There is the potential for helping San Ysidro grow as the gateway to America.”

Filner said his primary concern about the project is that it is designed and completed with the cooperation of the community. Previous capital projects have been thrown on San Ysidro without the input of residents, Filner said.

“The 805, that just cut the community in half,” Filner said.

The General Services Administration, the federal body tasked with designing and building a new border facility, has a history of completing projects at the border without the blessing of the community, Filner said, and he doesn’t want to see that happen with the current project.

Filner has been instrumental in earmarking almost $200 million in funding for the first phase of a new border crossing. Completion of the three-phase project, which would include converting nine southbound lanes of Interstate 5 into northbound lanes, will cost upwards of $580 million.

Filner said there will be no problem getting more cash to complete San Ysidro’s facelift, as long as he’s convinced the community is happy with the plans for the border.

“I’ve talked to the GSA numerous times, and I have the final say on it. I have to agree to it,” he said. “Getting money is hard. Getting rid of the money is never hard.”

And Filner said even the $200 million Congress has already set aside for San Ysidro is conditional on the GSA working with the people of San Ysidro.

“They’re not going to get the money unless it’s agreed to by the community,” he said.

WILL CARLESS

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