Research Archive

Research Overview

Intelligent and Efficient Border Crossings are ITS applications that use variable toll pricing, advanced traveler information systems, electronic screening, and other technologies to improve safety and mobility, reduce emissions, and improve security at our nation’s borders. The vision for the research on Intelligent and Efficient Border Crossings is to enable the implementation of innovative ITS solutions for a bi-national border system that ultimately improve safety and mobility, reduce emissions, and facilitate trade and travel without compromising the vital mission of securing America’s borders.

Research Goal

To implement and evaluate bi-national systems at border crossings

Research Approach

The Intelligent and Efficient Border Crossings project is a joint modal initiative between the ITS JPO, FHWA, and FMCSA that focuses on using ITS to create safer, less congested, and more environmentally-sustainable border crossings.  It encompasses the International Border Program.

The research under this initiative is two-fold, with emphasis on both Southern and Northern Borders:

  • At a U.S.-Mexican border site, the Department will collaborate on and support the development of a plan for a tolling system that can accommodate dynamic pricing at the border. Currently, Caltrans, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and Mexican agencies are planning a third border crossing to reduce delays caused by traffic congestion, better accommodate projected trade and travel demand, and increase economic growth and job opportunities on both sides of the border without sacrificing border safety and security. This opportunity allows all parties involved to plan a holistic approach to ITS at the new border crossing that enables a “Clean, Green, and Smart Border". The ITS components/areas included in this research are: electronic toll collection systems, border wait-time monitoring systems, variable pricing of tolls to reduce wait times, enhanced border security systems, and advanced traveler information systems. It will be the first North American international land border crossing project that proposes the use of non-traditional transportation project financing to improve capacity and operation of an international land border crossing.

A key aspect of this research initiative is to examine and develop marketing strategies such as discounting for lower emission trucks (promoting a green border); advance toll payment (pre-payment discounting); and guaranteed usage, as well as to determine what ITS and technology are needed to implement these strategies. If this research is not undertaken, no model will exist to encourage other border crossing regions to consider innovative financing and solutions to border infrastructure and operations issues.

The initiative, referred to as the “ITS Pre-deployment Strategy for the tolled Otay Mesa East (OME) New Border Crossing” started in October 2011. One of the most necessary components, a strong bi-national approach with our partners in Mexico, has been established. Four project research tasks have been completed and reports are available.

  • At a U.S.-Canadian border site, the US DOT will support the development of a detailed plan for implementing the International Border Crossing - Electronic Screening System (IBC E-Screening) for trucks, motor coaches, and buses. IBC E-Screening is an alert-based system expediting the safe and legal flow of freight and passengers across northern and southern U.S. borders while targeting unsafe operations.

The IBC E-Screening component of this project leverages investment in the FMCSA Query Central-to- Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment/ International Trade Data System (QC-ACE/ITDS) to provide an automated, data-driven approach to selection of vehicles for inspection at the border.

This system enables uniform and consistent application of policies and procedures related to safety and compliance assurance of cross-border commercial traffic. The data will be augmented to include verification of more than 20 additional screening factors, and enable identification and full safety/compliance verification of carriers, trucks, trailers, and drivers electronically, within three seconds or less of a truck’s presentation at the processing point rather than the current 15 minute manual process. Additionally, at this second site, research will center on the implementation of IBC E-Screening to assess the feasibility of reducing large truck crashes using an automated tool. This tool has several functions:

  • Electronically identifies the carrier, truck, trailer and driver data associated with commercial truck trips entering the U.S. at land ports through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) which exists on approximately 90 percent of trucks;
  • Electronically screens each trip component for factors of interest to state and FMCSA inspectors, providing for full safety and compliance verification of carriers, trucks, trailers, and drivers, each time they enter the U.S.;
  • Displays screening results to state and FMCSA enforcement officers and inspectors to assist them in making more informed inspection selection decisions in fixed and mobile operations, and mainline and ramp settings, significantly increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations; and
  • Enables data monitoring/reporting by states and FMCSA to better position each organization to fulfill its mission.

Research Tracks

At both sites, FHWA and FMCSA will research the use of DSRC (5.9 GHz) technologies and determine how implementation might maximize opportunities to work with Canada and Mexico on the potential to improve safety and operations in border regions. Although these two projects are managed separately, the research is pursued along similar tracks:

  • Track 1: State of the Practice Technology Review: This track is examining different practices around the world to identify which are most effective. Analysis will produce recommendations regarding deployment and selection of technologies and applications.
  • Track 2: Market Assessment: Research is being conducted to understand customer perspectives and institutional issues to ensure coordinated and interoperable deployment that meets the needs of all entities involved.
  • Track 3: Operational Concepts: Based on customer requirements, a set of operational frameworks will be developed and offered for public review and feedback from customers. The resulting operational concepts will guide deployment.
  • Track 4: Applying Technology Solutions at the Border: With operational concepts developed, research will be done to establish performance requirements and conduct field operational tests.

Research Progress, Insights, and Next Steps

Track 1: State of the Practice Technology Review
  • Research Accomplishments
    • Analyzed practices, relevant technologies and institutional arrangements for border crossing and bi-national tolling projects. Scan Report generated.
    • Examined specific project elements in Mexico that will need to interface with the Otay Mesa East Point of Entry.
  • Critical Research Insights
    • Matched possible ITS and border system applications with suitable technologies for the new Points of Entry.
    • Developed recommendations regarding ITS deployment and selection of technology for specific applications and ITS goals aligned with the goals of the project.
    • Developed a series of seven potential ITS applications for introduction to key Point of Entry stakeholders including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and General Services Administration (GSA).
  • Next Steps
    • Develop the ConOps, detailed design, and implementation of ITS components and functions.

Track 2: Market Assessment

  • Research Accomplishments
    • Identified potential customer profiles of the Otay Mesa East Point of Entry and how they may use this new POE in conjunction with the existing San Diego-Tijuana Points of Entry.
    • Conducted interviews with potential future users of the Otay Mesa East Point of entry to gain an initial understanding of customers’ perspectives.
    • Engaged commercial goods movement groups and existing border crossing interests to better understand existing concerns and introduce the concept of the new Points of Entry.
    • Coordinated customer interviews and profile development with parallel Traffic and Revenue Team to ensure consistency.
  • Critical Research Insights
    • Developed a high-level overview of border operational characteristics, goods movement, socioeconomic, industry and other trends impacting future Points of Entry in the San Diego-Tijuana region.
  • Next Steps
    • Propose goals and plan for the “Envisioning the Border” Stakeholder Workshop will be developed.

Track 3: Operational Concepts

  • Research Accomplishments
    • Developed Initial System Concept and Preliminary Business Objectives as a starting point for broader input from the entire group of project stakeholders.
    • Established an initial tolling concept that addresses different approaches to methods of payment, pricing strategy, institutional arrangements, toll points, and enforcement.
    • Introduced seven ITS concepts to regional CBP stakeholders including methods for: wait time detection, enhanced traffic management, enhanced lane management, border traveler information, border crossing data enhancement options for resource prediction, etc.
  • Critical Research Insights
    • Introduced five preliminary operational frameworks which were narrowed to three and then one preferred framework. This preferred framework includes toll locations, pricing considerations, institutional assumptions, and ITS options. The framework received direct input and feedback to gain consensus with Mexico’s Secretariat for Communications and Transportation.
    • Incorporated valuable feedback from stakeholders into preliminary operational concepts.
  • Next Steps
    • Continue to use the preferred operational framework as the “placeholder” for on-going operations discussions and decisions.
    • Develop the ConOps.
    • Establish business rules between project stakeholders.

Track 4: Applying Technology Solutions at the Border

  • Research Accomplishments
    • Field operations test of technology to improve safety and efficiency for FMCSA and state safety inspectors at the border.
    • Deliverables planned:
      • E-screening system deployed at three border crossing sites (Ysleta, Texas; Nogales, Arizona; and New York State).
      • Technical documents, software, system performance data.
      • Final report summarizing system operations and effectiveness.
  • Critical Research Insights
    • Kick-off meeting and project work plan completed.
  • Next Steps
    • Develop the ConOps, establish performance requirements, and install equipment for a field operational test.
    • Conduct field operations test in late fall 2013.
    • Prepare final report for June 2014.

Research Contacts

Katherine K. Hartman
Program Manager, Truck and Program Assessment
ITS Joint Program Office
(202) 366-2742

Crystal Jones
Transportation Specialist
Office of Freight Management
Federal Highway Administration
(202) 366-2976

Chris Flanigan
Office of Analysis, Research and Technology
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
(202) 385-2384