Otay Mesa, California-Land Gateway

Otay Mesa, California-Land Gateway

Otay Mesa, California, is our nation’s sixth busiest land border gateway by value for imports and exports transported across the border by highways. And its land ports are our twenty-fifth leading gateway when compared with all U.S. freight gateways—land, air, and sea.

In 2003, merchandise trade passing through Otay Mesa ($20 billion) accounted for about 4 percent of the value of U.S. total land trade. Otay Mesa is a major gateway for both exports and imports, with inbound shipments accounting for 58 percent and outbound shipments 42 percent of the value of freight handled by its land ports in 2003.

Otay Mesa is primarily a truck crossing.1 It is the only land border port in California that ranks in the overall top 25 gateways. California’s next largest land port in 2003 was Calexico-East, which moved $9 billion worth of international trade. Between 1999 and 2003, truck freight via Otay Mesa increased by 26 percent. By weight, trucks also account for nearly all of the land imports tonnage (see insert table).

Although Otay Mesa served 48 states in 2003, it is primarily a local and regional gateway. Compared to other land ports in the top 25 gateways overall, a higher share of goods traveling through Otay Mesa are to or from California. Only 8 percent of the exports and 14 percent of the imports passing through Otay Mesa are to and from other states. The top three states served by Otay Mesa’s land transportation facilities are California, Maryland, and Ohio. The latter two combined, however, account for only 3 percent of the trade passing through Otay Mesa.

Between 1994 and 2003, the number of trucks entering the United States from Mexico through Otay Mesa increased by 59 percent, from 440,000 to 697,000 (figure 1).

Over 711,500 truck containers entered the United States via Otay Mesa in 2003, up 20 percent from 1999. Although the value of rail trade via Otay Mesa is unreported, the number of incoming train container crossings is available. The 3,440 rail containers that entered Otay Mesa in 2003 account for less than half of one percent of the total containers entering the port. Almost all of the rail containers are empty, explaining why there is so little international rail trade going through the port.

1 While there is rail trade that travels through the port, the value of this trade is relatively small and reporting the figure would disclose proprietary business information.