Amidst the flood of new arrivals in the U.S. from Central America and Mexico, the Texas Dept of Transportation acknowledges that border chaos has caused new problems for American citizens who must drive into Mexico.

With drivers sometimes waiting up to several hours to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, the Texas Department of Transportation is partnering with the city of El Paso to provide real-time traffic updates so travelers can plan accordingly and avoid long waits. Using Bluetooth® and radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology, wait times will be available to motorists and commercial shippers so they can modify travel plans as needed.  

“Texas is proud to lead the way in transportation technology, especially when it helps relieve congestion and improve mobility at key points on our roadways,” said Chairman Ted Houghton, Texas Transportation Commission. “Not only will this technology benefit travelers, but it will benefit our state’s commerce by making trade more efficient.”

Here’s how the new technology works: As Bluetooth devices (in passenger vehicles) and RFID transponders (in commercial vehicles) pass roadside sensors, bridge wait times are calculated and posted at bcis.tamu.edu. Drivers can access this site and make decisions on when to leave based on the real-time wait times. The data is used only temporarily and does not identify actual drivers or their vehicles.

“The city of El Paso’s economic security depends on the flow of goods and people across our international ports of entry,“ said El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser. “In order to ensure safe and fast commute times, we must provide our commuters access to realistic wait times. The partnership between the city of El Paso and TxDOT is a significant step in helping these commuters identify the best route and provide realistic crossing times at our bridges.” 

Currently, drivers can utilize the new Bluetooth-generated data for the Ysleta crossing, also known as Zaragoza and located between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Shippers can access similar data generated via RFIDs at the following seven sites along the border: Ysleta Bridge in El Paso; Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge; Veteran’s Memorial Bridge in Brownsville; World Trade and Colombia bridges in Laredo; and Camino Real International Bridge in Eagle Pass. 

Bluetooth technology also is in use along I-35 in Waco and at the Port Aransas Ferry, where wait times are posted onto digital message boards.

The bcis.tamu.edu website was developed through research by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and partially funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.