Construction of non-intrusive inspection systems begins at major U.S. border crossing

August 10, 2023

Ryan Witkowski

|

Truckers utilizing a major truck crossing along the U.S. and Mexico border can expect some delays over the coming months.

On August 9, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that construction had begun in the pre-primary inspection area of World Trade Bridge in Laredo, Texas. The agency says the construction is part of a “Non-Intrusive Inspection modernization and expansion project” that aims to “alleviate wait times and to facilitate a more seamless travel process.”

The project – which is expected to run “tentatively through April 2024” – will see the installation of a number of Multi Energy Portal systems in the pre-primary area south of the primary inspection booths. CBP says the screenings “efficiently detect and prevent inadmissible persons, contraband, illicit narcotics, unreported currency, guns, ammunition and other illegal merchandise from being smuggled into the country.”

The MEP systems are supplied by Leidos, a Reston, Va.-based information technology, engineering, and science solutions firm. The company was awarded the $480 million contract in April 2021 to install its VACIS Non-Intrusive X-Ray Inspection Systems at multiple ports of entry.

According to Leidos’ website, the MEP system includes:

  • A QR code reader
  • License plate recognition technology
  • A radio frequency identification system
  • Situational awareness cameras
  • An open-standards interface to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SWIFT system.
  • Capable of integrating with radiation detection equipment

The group claims the system can scan more than 150 occupied vehicles per hour, utilizing a low-energy x-ray to not expose the driver to harmful levels of radiation. Once the cab has cleared the portal, the system switches to a higher-energy level to scan the cargo area for contraband and illicit items.

Alberto Flores, director for the Laredo Port of Entry, says the new technology will help the agency increase efficiency for trucks crossing the border.

“Once complete, the MEP portals will scan commodities arriving from Mexico. CBP officers will adjudicate the images and in turn detect contraband and similar security threats promptly,” Flores said in a statement. “The goal of this newly implemented technology is to enhance border security, all while facilitating the efficient flow of trade into the U.S.”

CBP says that “some traffic delays” are expected during the construction, noting that all arriving trucks will be routed around the construction zones and will have access to all 15 inspection booths. Additionally, the agency says that Free and Secure Trade empty truck traffic will now shift to the exterior FAST lanes outside of the import lot.

“We want to remind the trade community to please plan ahead, monitor border wait times via cbp.gov or obtain the BWT app on their smartphone, and have all their travel documents ready to present to CBP officers upon inspection to ensure quicker processing times,” the agency said in a statement. LL