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November 8, 2022Episode 45. Border Balancing Act: Finding harmony between commercial efficiency and security demands.
FEATURING: Rafael Aldrete
Along America’s 2,000-mile border with Mexico, there’s plenty of room for things to go awry when it comes to the secure, efficient movement of people and goods. Myriad public and private partnerships and the latest research are helping ensure that they don’t.
About Our Guest
Director, Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research
Rafael Aldrete is a senior research scientist and director of TTI’s Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research (CIITR) in El Paso, Texas. His research focuses on delivering practical and innovative transportation solutions related to cross-border transportation and technology applications, infrastructure finance, and policy. Under his leadership, CIITR researchers have developed intelligent transportation systems applications and other technologies to improve border-crossing efficiency and traffic operations using El Paso as a test bed. With more than 20 years’ experience in transportation research, Dr. Aldrete is a nationally recognized expert in using value capture as a transportation funding mechanism.
Bernie Fette (host) (00:14):
Hello once again. This is Thinking Transportation — conversations about how we get ourselves and the things we need from one place to another, and what can happen along the way. I’m Bernie Fette with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. The US-Mexico border stretches almost 2,000 miles, includes four American states, and sees more than 4 million truck crossings every year. The operations involve a wide range of institutions and government agencies — both public and private sectors — representing both countries. And of course, cultural differences come into play, as well. With that kind of complexity, there’s a lot that can go awry. Here to help us understand how things keep running smoothly, and why that’s so important, is Rafael Aldrete, a senior research scientist for TTI and Director of the Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research. Thank you Rafa, for joining us today.
Rafael Aldrete (guest) (01:25):
Oh, thank you, Bernie. I’m very glad to be here and I’m looking forward to a chat.
Bernie Fette (01:29):
I was thinking we might begin with kind of a big picture description of the US-Mexico border, based on the very limited amount of web searching that I did. Just a few factoids that popped up for me. It’s almost 2,000 miles long. It involves four American states. It’s the busiest border in the world, which I didn’t know until I read that yesterday, based in part on the fact that there are more than 4 million truck crossings across the US-Mexico border each year, and more than half of the cross-border trade comes through entry ports in Texas. Did I miss anything important there?
Rafael Aldrete (02:09):
No, no. That is correct.
Bernie Fette (02:11):
Okay. Then could you help us by painting a picture? Maybe describe for us how the border is important on a macro scale first. Economy, jobs, gross domestic product, any other meaningful measurements that you might use whenever you’re explaining this to people.
Rafael Aldrete (02:29):
Well, you described that 2,000-mile long border, and along those 2,000 miles of border, we have 24 commercial crossings, commercial ports of entry from California to Texas. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> We have 43 passenger vehicle crossings. We have 36 pedestrian vehicle crossings and 18 for buses. And then we also have nine really important crossings for rail. So it’s a massive set of infrastructure that we have at the border, and its impact is felt throughout the US economy. So just to give you an idea, in 2021, the US goods that were traded with Mexico reached $661.1 billion.
Bernie Fette (03:13):
Billion with a B.
Rafael Aldrete (03:14):
Billion with a B. 276 billion were exported from the US to Mexico, and almost 385 billion were imported from Mexico.
Bernie Fette (03:24):
That’s a lot.
Rafael Aldrete (03:25):
About 82 percent of this merchandise is crossing the border by truck and rail. So it’s a big chunk. Okay. And like you said, Texas has the largest share of trade with Mexico. So for Texas it is even a bigger deal. To put this into a different kind of perspective, I can also tell you that in numbers of trucks you mentioned how many trucks were crossing per day. So to give you an idea, in 2021, we had about 7 million trucks crossing the border. This figure 7 million is a, an increase of 47 percent in the last 11 years. So since 2010, the number of trucks have grown by about 47 percent. So it’s almost by half. Mm-hmm. So the, the growth is very significant. Other figures that put in perspective how important is the border is when you put the amount of trade in US dollars that crosses every day.
Rafael Aldrete (04:19):
We are talking about one and a half billion in goods trade with Mexico every single day. So that’s a huge amount. And at the same time, just in one single year, let’s take for example 2021, we had over 340,000 people crossing the border every day, pedestrians or by vehicle. That’s in both directions. So it’s a, a staggering amount. Also, I think the other part that gets lost, this trade with Mexico is not only important for the border states, for California, New Mexico, Arizona, and of course Texas. This is very important for states across the union. So you have states all over every single state trades to some extent, and jobs in that state from trade with Mexico are not the same on the Mexican side. Almost every Mexican state depends in one way or another on this trade relationship.
Bernie Fette (05:09):
And I think you’re getting closer to the next thing I wanted to ask about, which is if you would help us understand on a micro scale, for the typical American citizen or the typical American family in terms of consumer products that we need and any other meaningful metrics, why is the border so important at that personal level?
Rafael Aldrete (05:30):
Well, the supply chains that allow us to access all the goods in the big warehouses or that we buy in the grocery store, all, all of that depends on a long chain of transportation and logistics networks that cross the border. So from all the steps that take from the production to the consumption of those products, crossing the border is one of the most complex parts of the, the trip. And it’s not only one of the most complex, but it’s a process where, you know, some amount of delay and cost in the transportation takes place. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> So anything that disrupts that supply chain is going to result by default in, in a change in the prices, a delay would result in an increased price. Right. For consumer goods, it impacts everything that we buy from vehicles to avocados. So the impact is felt in terms of dollars and prices. So especially in circumstances where price increases are being, uh, something that has been talked about a lot.
Bernie Fette (06:33):
With all the news about inflation rates in recent months. And so what I think I hear you saying is that what happens in a relatively isolated space on the border can have ramifications for what people pay for televisions way up in Wisconsin.
Rafael Aldrete (06:49):
Everywhere. That’s right.
Rafael Aldrete (06:51):
Okay. Your work covers a lot of different aspects and we could easily spend a few hours on talking about all of it, but if we could focus on just a few areas for our visit. One that quickly comes to mind for me is your work in measuring border crossing wait times and how to reduce delays associated with those crossings. Can you tell us a little about what you’ve been doing on that front?
Rafael Aldrete (07:18):
Well, yeah, like you say, this demand that I spoke about, all these people who daily commute across the border, all these trucks that commute across the border delivering goods and services in either side, this demand has often overwhelmed the port of entry system, the border crossings, which in turn gets translated into higher costs. So having a good understanding of what those border crossing times are, knowing what they are occurring at what moment are they taking place when the system gets stressed, is very important for the shippers who are sending their products across the border. It’s very important for the individuals who cross the border. So since the opening of the TTI presence here in El Paso with the Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research, we’ve been looking at ways of estimating and communicating to the traveling public those crossing times. So a big part of the work that TTI my colleagues at TTI have done since 2008, has included developing technologies that allow us to measure in an objective way in real time border crossing times and communicate those crossing times to the public.
Rafael Aldrete (08:30):
We started when there were no reliable systems to measure border crossing times anywhere along the border. We started with some pilots here in El Paso using technology that was identified by our researchers at TTI, and that pilot ended up working very well. So the pilot was adopted for implementation in other ports of entry along the Texas Mexico border first. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So after El Paso there, other locations in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley where my colleagues have been implementing the same systems. Not only that, then other states started to request having the same system. So all these systems that we have been deploying, we have been working jointly with the Texas Department Transportation, TxDOT, and with the Federal Highway Administration, FHWA, in making happen after we conducted, you know, some of the pilots here, part of it was funded by TTI right through our Center, and then the bulk of the funding later on came from the Federal Highway Administration and from Texas. Now TTI is operating for these agencies, the system from Brownsville all the way to Otay Mesa, where TTI is working with departments of transportation in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Bernie Fette (09:43):
So almost that entire 2,000 mile stretch.
Rafael Aldrete (09:46):
Correct. Mm-hmm. And now TTI is assisting TxDOT in expanding that system to other ports of entry in Texas where the system is not deployed yet.
Bernie Fette (09:55):
And the system that you’re talking about that estimates crossing wait times and then communicates those estimates to travelers, to shippers. Help us understand why that’s so important. I take it at least part of it is that it helps them in planning their shipments, and can you maybe elaborate on that just a bit?
Rafael Aldrete (10:13):
Yeah, that’s correct. So when you look at the border community on both the Mexican and the US side, very often what you have is several international crossings. There’s not only one, right? So it’s difficult sometimes for those crossings to cope with the demand and then ensure, for example, that customs has enough officers manning the customs booths to enter the country. So what if you don’t have information about what is the level of congestion in one of the ports of entry, it becomes very difficult to make good decisions because all of a sudden what you may see is you may be overwhelming one of those border crossings when there may be more capacity to cross in a different border crossing, which may just be a few miles away. So the intention of the system is to provide information for shippers so that they can know in advance of the truck leaving the departure point, they know which border crossing is likely to provide the fastest way of crossing the border. So it’s very important because it ends up, uh, helping make good decisions not only for shippers or for commuters, but it also helps the agencies at the port of entry like Customs and Border Protection to understand what the demand is on each particular port and help them make decisions to deploy less or more customs officers so that they can process the cargo faster.
Bernie Fette (11:40):
So everyone concerned can see a benefit here, it sounds like if they have better information on all of the different conditions along that several hundred mile stretch, then you can distribute the demand, distribute the number of vehicles crossing across the full range of crossing facilities, right?
Rafael Aldrete (12:00):
Yeah, that’s one of the benefits. The other big benefit too is that if you don’t have good data, if you don’t have objective data that allows you to make an argument to make more investments for new infrastructure or additional capacity at the border, you really have nothing to make that argument. Right? So the other benefit of this information is that once you have compounded historical information enough of it, you can use that information to document what is the cost of delay that is being added to the goods that are crossing the border. What is the inconvenience for fleet operators and therefore what the potential impact is on the cost of the goods that are being shipped across the border zone.
Bernie Fette (12:38):
So you’re looking at the economics there, and I know that it’s also in those border crossing wait times that we typically see the overlap, the intersection, I guess, in sometimes conflict of sorts between efficiency and security or speed of crossing and security, which sounds like a very delicate balancing act. How do you approach striking that balance between security and efficiency?
Rafael Aldrete (13:03):
Yes. So that’s also extremely important. The primary mission of Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the US Department of Homeland Security, is to protect the border. But are also charged with the very important task of facilitating trade. So it is, like you say, a balancing act where you need to ensure that freight is moving while at the same time making sure that that freight that is crossing the border is free of contraband or drugs and other things that you don’t want crossing the border. And basically it involves a very delicate operation that includes risk analysis, the use of x-ray machines and other techniques to, to ensure that the cargo is safe. So for that same reason, having a better idea of where the demand is, where the delays are, allows you to better deploy, say additional infrastructure that you can use for scanning the trucks that are crossing the border. It also allows you to better deploy officers in those places where there is more demand. So the intersection of facilitating trade and maintaining it, keeping it secure is also one of the beneficiaries I think, of having additional information. It provides additional visibility for border agencies like CBP to understand what is coming at them at the port so they can better accomplish that mission.
Bernie Fette (14:23):
Which brings us back to the whole objective of trying to get more accurate border crossing wait time estimates.
Rafael Aldrete (14:30):
Yes, that’s right.
Bernie Fette (14:32):
In discussions about the future of transportation, seems that topics like automated vehicles get a lot of attention in such discussions in part because of the amazing things that artificial intelligence can enable. But you’re using artificial intelligence for other applications specifically to improve border transportation. Can you give us a sense of what you’re doing there?
Rafael Aldrete (14:58):
Yeah. So we are taking advantage of artificial intelligence in many ways when looking at having a better understanding how traffic moves across the border and how we can make it more efficient. So we have several examples of that. One of them is we have been using a combination of satellite and aerial imagery with artificial intelligence to understand how traffic moves in those occasions when we have, due to manmade or natural events, the queues grow extreme. Basically, you know, when you have queues that reach five miles of length, we have had instances of that happening over the last four or five years. Different political or natural events have taken place where the throughput across the border has decreased significantly, creating what we call extreme border queues. So when that happens, the, the hardware that we have deployed to estimate those crossing times is insufficient because we cannot cover five miles.
Rafael Aldrete (15:59):
Then you need other tools. So we started researching the application of satellite imagery, a high-resolution satellite imagery for that purpose with advances in satellite imagery. Now, we are at the stage where it is easier to get those images in a relatively short amount of time, where you can actually take action by looking at those images. But even with the high-resolution satellite images that are available by commercial satellite providers, I’m talking about a resolution where each pixel in an image is 50 centimeters. So that will be, you know, about less than two feet. So each pixel represents two feet. That resolution is still not good enough for identifying an individual vehicle.
Bernie Fette (16:41):
It’s a good start, but it’s not really what you need.
Rafael Aldrete (16:43):
Exactly. So what we are doing is we’re using artificial intelligence to enhance those images and therefore increasing the resolution of those images. Once we have been able to increase that resolution, then we can also run artificial intelligence algorithms to identify the vehicles and identify how fast they are moving in a queue.
Bernie Fette (17:03):
Right. It sounds like you’re creating a simulation of sorts between the use of the satellite imagery and your artificial intelligence applications.
Rafael Aldrete (17:12):
Well, rather than a simulation, what we are using is we’re taking advantage of artificial intelligence to process much faster the information than you would by having somebody trying to do it manually. You know, these are satellite images that are 25 square kilometers. So they are huge, and if you want to enhance and identify vehicles in that enormous image, in a relatively short amount of time, a human cannot do it. So we are allowing the artificial intelligence first to enhance the image to a degree that is enough so that it can also count the vehicles in the queue. Okay. If we have an extreme queue starting today, we ordered a picture tomorrow, that queue’s gonna continue most likely the next day, because we’re talking about queues of 18 hours, which you can imagine those are really bad for the cost of goods, right? When you have, uh, an avocado truck that is waiting 18 hours to cross the border, it’s having impact because the avacados may not make it fresh, you know, to the shelves.
Bernie Fette (18:08):
Right. You could lose a great deal of time and therefore lose a great deal of money just in the value of the, for instance, produce that you’re shipping across.
Rafael Aldrete (18:17):
That is correct. And so the important part here is that it’s not so much that today we cannot do it in real time. It is that very soon we will be able to do it in real time and we will have the tools to do it. So right now what we’re doing is developing those tools so that tomorrow, in the next couple of years, we’re able to actually do that in a much shorter time, maybe in real time.
Bernie Fette (18:37):
You’re developing the tools now and you’re just waiting for the technology to catch up.
Rafael Aldrete (18:41):
Bernie Fette (18:43):
I know that from conversations we’ve had before, that border operations involve a pretty wide range of institutions, government agencies, public and private sectors, uh, state, local, federal government on both sides of the border. And of course, you’ve got myriad cultural differences that come into play as well. That sounds like an incredibly complicated picture that you and your colleagues have to operate within every day. I’m curious what you do to manage all of that at once, and maybe you might have an example of just how complex it can get and how you work within that complexity.
Rafael Aldrete (19:23):
Yeah, no, it, it is really complex just simply improving the mobility of people and goods in a non-border environment. It’s already a very complex area that requires a multidisciplinary approach and, and knowledge of all the stakeholders involved. When you move to a cross-border environment, this complexity gets compounded significantly. So you not only need these multidisciplinary approach, you know, having, uh, engineers, economists, computer scientists, and the traffic engineers, uh, eh, customs specialists. You, you also have the challenge of the cultural dimension of the border, the different cultures on both sides of the border, the international jurisdictions, because whereas in a domestic environment, you have traditional department of transportation, your local governments, and then your federal jurisdictions. In an international border environment, then you have the addition of, uh, Customs and Border Protection and their counterparts on the other side of the border. You also have authorities at the same level, state, local and national level on the other side.
Rafael Aldrete (20:26):
So you need to have an understanding of how the transportation system is looked at on both sides of the border, how the border crossing is looked at on both sides of the border. So some of the examples that I could mention of working in that environment, a few years ago, we were involved in a World Bank-funded project with the municipality of Ciudad Juarez, helping them to develop a regulatory plan for freight movement within the city. But being a border city that is next to El Paso, having an understanding of how that system integrates into the US ports of entry was very important of that study. And at the same time, we have to be able to see the problem from two points of view, from the local point of view, the municipality in Ciudad Juarez, but also from the point of view of the international side and how it integrates.
Rafael Aldrete (21:17):
Because the same way that that these ports of entry and border crossings are so important for the US side is the mirror image on the Mexican side. So that was a challenge because we had to basically consider both sides of the border and the complexities of that. Another example that I had the opportunity to be a part of was the recent Texas border master plan. I was part of the Border Trade Advisory Committee that was overseeing that study for TxDOT. It was a years-long effort where TxDOT was working with different stakeholders on the US side, but also with the stakeholders on the Mexican side. And whenever we had an opportunity to look at what the study output was being and when we provided feedback into that study, it was very interesting, but at the same time, very rewarding to see that we were able to document such a complex process in conducting this plan along with TxDOT, ensuring that we were looking at both sides of the border in developing that plan and that we had the priorities from agencies on both sides of the border. So anyway, that’s another example, too, of how complex it is to develop something, anything, any transportation project in the context of border crossings.
Bernie Fette (22:28):
So what you do has a heavy involvement in science of course, but it sounds like it has a pretty significant piece of it that has to do simply with human relations.
Rafael Aldrete (22:39):
Yes. Yeah, it’s very important.
Bernie Fette (22:41):
Where do you think that you and your colleagues have made biggest impact through your work since you’ve joined TTI?
Rafael Aldrete (22:48):
Well, our center here in El Paso, we just considered border crossings or, or activities around the border. I think our biggest contribution has been, and that’s by default because of our mission at the center, is to develop those cutting-edge technologies that are going to take us to the next level. So like I mentioned 10 years ago, we started doing some of the basic research that then translated into our colleagues developing, uh, this border crossing information system that provides information on border crossing times using Bluetooth and wifi technology. So it was Center-funded research that conducted the first tests to understand the visibility of using that technology to conduct it here. Then later on, we have developed other technology that is based, I gave you a couple of examples of artificial intelligence, but we have done others also aimed that solving challenges that we’ve identified in terms of being able to get the information you want and that you need in order to make border crossing transportation more efficient.
Rafael Aldrete (23:48):
Just to give you an example, when you’re looking at something that may seem as basic as obtaining real-time counts of vehicle crossing the border, five years ago, there was no commercial product available in the traffic hardware market that would allow you to do that. Every commercial hardware available, traffic counter available was not designed to operate in conditions that are like a border crossing where you have stop-and-go traffic with significant amounts of traffic with trucks that are standing in a single spot for many minutes. So what we did over five years, we tested pretty much any commercial traffic counter in the market at the border crossings, and none of them worked. So we ended up developing our own. Our researchers successfully developed a vehicle counter that uses LIDAR technology. It’s basically light-based technology to count the vehicles that across the board with we are talking about precisions of 99.5 percent of the actual volumes.
Bernie Fette (24:50):
Far better than the human counters that probably handled that task in the past.
Rafael Aldrete (24:54):
Right, exactly. That’s actually one of the findings. So we have now deployed several of those counters here in the El Paso region, and now what we are doing, again, using artificial intelligence is combining the crossing times that we are producing with those volume counts and with other information to provide what we call a short-term forecast of border crossings. So we developed the technology not only to count the vehicles, we also developing the technology to provide a short-term forecast, which is very important when you’re looking at border crossings because the information that we currently, normally you would have access to in a border crossing information system, it’s a little bit delayed, which doesn’t give you the exact time is gonna take you if you’re starting your trip now. So what we did using this LIDAR technology and artificial intelligence, we were able to produce a short-term forecast that allows us to say vehicle data just joined the queue. It’s gonna take you this many minutes to cross. So the information is more current.
Bernie Fette (25:59):
Very important, whether you’re shipping televisions or especially if you’re shipping pineapple and bananas.
Rafael Aldrete (26:05):
Yes. Uh, huh.
Bernie Fette (26:08):
Okay. You’ve been at TTI for about 15 years? A little more than 15 years.
Rafael Aldrete (26:12):
Bernie Fette (26:14):
Years. Okay. 16 years. And you’ve been studying border transportation issues for that entire time, along with other things, of course. What’s the biggest change that you have seen on the border in the time that you’ve been doing this work?
Rafael Aldrete (26:29):
I think that what has changed the most since we started working here has been the degree of cooperation that stakeholders on both sides of the borders have. That level of cooperation has increased significantly. So that has allowed some things that were, I think about 15 years ago to start happening. Some of them, I would say, for example, uh, well of course the border crossing times, right? That was one thing that didn’t exist before. But also the concept of pre-inspection that now Customs and Border Protection is able to conduct inspections of shipments on the Mexican side in some locations so that the trucks don’t have to stop at the border. That is already happening in Laredo, but here in Santa Teresa on the New Mexico border, that’s happening. So that’s a huge change, and the way it directly impacts the border crossing time because then you don’t have those trucks that are getting inspected. Those for sure are not stopping at the border for a long time. So that’s a big change, and it involves the cooperation of all the stakeholders, federal, state, and local, and national, international.
Bernie Fette (27:33):
So you’re bringing it back to the stakeholder change.
Rafael Aldrete (27:36):
To the people factor.
Bernie Fette (27:36):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the people factor, and I wonder what it was that motivated that change for those stakeholders to improve their interagency relationships and their interagency workings over those years? Well, I’ll just ask you, what do you think brought that about?
Rafael Aldrete (27:53):
Well, I think it’s been a push and a pull. The push has been from the local agencies that are, you know, the, let’s say your municipalities, your bridge owners, the people who are closer to those individuals who drive across border on a day-to-day basis, the shippers, the traveling public, the bridge operators, they’ve been pushing for improving cross border cooperation to improve cross-border times because they feel the impact immediately. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and then the pull also the microscopic trend of increasing trade relationship between Mexico and the US. The amount of trade that has been increasing, and that has been the two things, have made this possible, this increasing cooperation, because there are rewards on both sides. So at the same time, there have been stakeholders and the federal government have developed ways that allow local communities to now directly cooperate with, say for example, Customs and Border Protection by helping pay for overtime of customs officers so they can expand the hours of operation and help open the border crossings for more hours or add more officers at big times and so on. So that’s been made possible because trade is important for the entire nation, but also you have the local perspective of those individuals who get directly impacted by those border delays every day.
Bernie Fette (29:11):
At the risk of oversimplifying, it sounds like part of the reason is that the many, many stakeholder groups have clearly just started to see more obviously, that there’s something for each party to gain here.
Rafael Aldrete (29:25):
Yes. And especially now. Bernie, you know, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the term near-shoring and friend-shoring.
Bernie Fette (29:31):
Rafael Aldrete (29:32):
As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, we all know that the supply chains reconfigure significantly, and they are continuing to reconfigure. And so now you’re having a lot of companies that are looking at reshoring, bringing back some of the production to the US, the manufacturing or bringing it nearby, like, you know, say for example, Mexico or Canada.
Bernie Fette (29:53):
When you say moving it, we’re talking about moving it primarily from China, from
Rafael Aldrete (29:56):
Asia, from China, from
Bernie Fette (29:57):
Asia, closer to home.
Rafael Aldrete (29:59):
Closer to home, so that, uh, when you have a disruption, you know, it’s easier to deal with it in the future. They’re also using the term friend-shoring for that specific purpose because you, you want to make sure you’re trading with friends. That’s also another term that is being used, but at the end, it’s the same, the same reason. There is a lot of manufacturing that is moving back to the US and to the vicinity of the US including Mexico, and that only means one thing, that this trade is going to continue growing and it’s probably gonna grow at a faster pace.
Bernie Fette (30:28):
Hmm. Also, in reference to your 16-year tenure that we were just talking about, I’ll ask you what I ask in each of the conversations that we have with our guests. What is it more than anything else that makes you excited to come to work every day?
Rafael Aldrete (30:46):
What excites me the most about my job really is the ability to work on something different every day in a new challenge and learning and using new tools, new concepts every day. The challenge that that brings is just a challenge that keeps you very interested and engaged and, and working with the people that I work with here. That’s also something that makes me want to come to the office every day, especially during the COVID time. I was missing being in the office, but I think now you know where things are returning to a more normal or new normal, and being able to discuss, to exchange ideas with my colleagues here and with sponsors. I think that’s really one of the things that keeps me engaged.
Bernie Fette (31:26):
Certainly a good thing that you enjoy challenges because you most certainly do not have a shortage of them, it seems.
Rafael Aldrete (31:34):
Thank you. Yeah.
Bernie Fette (31:36):
Rafael Aldrete, senior research scientist for TTI and Director of the Center for International Intelligent Transportation Research. Rafa, thank you so much for your time. We’re really fortunate to have you on our team.
Rafael Aldrete (31:51):
Thank you, Bernie. It was my pleasure. I appreciate the invitation.
Bernie Fette (31:56):
In discussions and news reports about the US-Mexico border, immigration tends to be the central topic, but there’s a huge amount of activity at those land ports of entry that has little to do with people crossing in either direction. Trade between the two nations, imports and exports combined, totals more than $660 billion each year. Cross-border commercial activity is central to the health of both countries on an enormous scale. And on a more personal scale, too, because what happens along those international entry points can influence what we pay for everything from avocados to televisions. Thanks for listening. Next time, we’ll visit with TTI’s Beverly Kuhn and Jeff Paniati, the outgoing president and the current CEO of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. We hope you’ll take time to join us for that conversation, and that you’ll take time also to give us a review, subscribe, and share this episode, Thinking Transportation is a production of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, a member of the Texas A&M University System. The show is edited and produced by Chris Pourteau. I’m your writer and host, Bernie Fette. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time.