Poll: Most Would Pay $3 to Cross U.S. Border

Nearly 60 percent of people who enter the United States in the San Diego area would pay $3 for a speedier trip from Mexico, according to a new survey that comes as heightened security measures stir fears that the economy will suffer if waits become intolerable.

The poll by the San Diego Association of Governments (search) and California Transportation Department (search) found that 59.4 percent of border crossers would pay $3 at a proposed port of entry in San Diego's Otay Mesa district. Another 14.2 percent would pay occasionally, while 26.5 percent would avoid the toll.

The findings are part of a broader survey to measure the impact of lines at San Ysidro (search), the nation's busiest border crossing, and two other ports of entry in San Diego County.

A full report that assesses passenger and cargo traffic isn't expected until late summer but preliminary results offer an unusually detailed portrait of who is crossing the border. Surveyors interviewed 3,603 northbound travelers from November through February as they waited to enter the United States. Among the findings:

— Americans spent an average of $144.32 while visiting Mexico, $215.62 on holidays. Mexicans expected to spend an average of $142.01 on their trips to the United States, $168.28 on holidays.

— More than 63 percent of Mexicans were visiting the United States to shop or run errands, 17.1 percent for work or business and 12.4 percent to see family or friends.

— Nearly 56 percent of Americans went to Mexico to see family or friends, 12.7 percent to shop or run errands and 9.1 percent for work or business.

The survey is the first to ask whether people would pay to cross the border in San Diego, said Marney Cox, chief economist at the San Diego Association of Governments. The survey questioned passengers in cars and buses, as well as pedestrians and those crossing on bicycle.

Texas has eight toll crossings at the Mexican border, operated by city and county governments. California has none.