Nogales Mariposa Port of Entry Leads the Way in Innovation and Economic Growth

ARTICLE | Sep 4, 2014

The $200 million expansion of the Mariposa Land Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona is helping to transform the way the local and federal governments work and collaborate in a way that all interested parties are impacted positively. The Mariposa expansion project excels in environmental planning, innovation, and collaboration, resulting in a long-lasting economic impact that will maximize efficiency and volume of trade with Mexico, increased security, and a minimized impact on the beautiful Nogales environment. Now five years since construction began, the grand opening is just around the corner, slated for October 15, 2014.

The Mariposa Land Port of Entry is the fourth busiest land port of entry in the United States, and nearly 10 million individuals crossed the border in Nogales in 2013. Mariposa serves as the main port of entry for fresh produce entering the United States from Mexico and the primary produce distribution point on the United States’ southern border, handling approximately 37% of all Mexican imported fresh produce in the United States. In 2011, $26 billion flowed through the Arizona-Sonora border in imports and exports, with most of that through Nogales.


The Mariposa expansion project is a state-of-the-art construction project that will benefit Nogales, the State of Arizona, and the entire United States.  The expanded Mariposa Port will play a pivotal role in North America’s newest north-south corridor connecting Mexico through Arizona to the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Since its inception in 1995, the CANAMEX Corridor, passing through Nogales, has become the cornerstone for seamless and efficient transportation of goods, services, people, and information between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. It is a geographically designated area developed to offer enhanced resources to facilitate easy transportation of freight, movement of personnel and the delivery of services along its route. Other projected interstate highway projects in Arizona promise to tie into the CANAMEX corridor and open up even more logistical advantages in the Nogales region.

The Mariposa expansion project has successfully brought together a number of federal agencies to expedite border inspections, including US Customs and Border Protection, US Food and Drug Administration, US Department of Agriculture, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and the Arizona Department of Transportation. Sitting next to each other has resulted in greater communication and collaboration across agencies. This collaboration has decreased wait times, driving business’ bottom lines and creating new jobs in the local and state economies.

The Mariposa expansion project has increased inspection capacity exponentially, and the Mariposa port now boasts state-of-the-art technology that expedites inspections while maximizing customs enforcement. Where there were once only four commercial and four vehicular inspection lanes, today the Mariposa Port is able to inspect 4,000+ trucks per day through 8 primary and 56 secondary commercial inspection booths. The timely and secure flow of people and ideas will also be expedited through 12 primary and 24 secondary personal vehicle lanes. Other technology and fast processing lanes further make the Mariposa Port the ideal location to connect business and people between the United States and Mexico.

The Mariposa expansion project is also leading the way in sustainable design and construction. The Mariposa Port will receive a LEED Silver certification for its use of energy efficient technologies, such as photovoltaic panels, a solar powered domestic hot water system, advanced lighting and building automation systems, a rainwater harvesting system, recycled content material selections, and low maintenance finishes throughout the port’s design. Officials estimate the use of solar generated power will offset the port’s energy consumption by 20 percent, and the environmental study estimated a zero impact on the local environment. Finally, the landscape includes local plants that require little maintenance and harmonize with the immediate surroundings.

Furthermore, 13 of the project’s 14 subcontractors were from Southern Arizona, and 58% were from small businesses. The project was one of 11 national GSA Design Excellence winners and was the winner in the communications category for its use of colors and innovative techniques that nonverbally communicate information and directions without excessive directional signage. The Arizona Department of Transportation upgraded its facilities in just six months in 2012 and were recognized with the Best Use of Innovation award in 2012.

Now with the expanded Mariposa Port on line and fully operational, the Nogales region is seeing the benefit of the collaboration and innovation that envisioned the project nearly 15 years ago. Industrial space is springing up around the port and elsewhere, new stores are looking to locate in Nogales, and an ever-increasing number of people are realizing why Nogales is a great place to call home.


Prior to the expansion project, the Mariposa Port was inspecting around 1,000 commercial trucks a day in a facility built for a mere 400. By the late 1990’s trade was bottlenecking in Nogales, while it was booming in Texas and California. Trade through Arizona remained stagnant with border wait times in excess of four to six hours. Nogales and Arizona were losing money and jobs fast.

With a vision to future economic development and new job growth, the City of Nogales, the Greater Nogales Santa Cruz County Port Authority, and others collaborated to lobby for congressional allocations to design and construct a modern, state-of-the-art Mariposa Port. The project brought together a wide array of partners, including US Customs and Border Protection, US General Services Administration, US Border Patrol, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, US Food and Drug Administration, US Department of Agriculture, Arizona Department of Transportation, Arizona Mexico Commission, Santa Cruz County, the City of Nogales, and others. After many years of study and legislative lobbying, the allocations were finally awarded in 2005, design completed in 2007, and construction began in 2009.


With the vision funded, the different partners worked through a variety of challenges ranging from flooding mitigation, flexible workspace, and challenging terrain. Probably the greatest challenge was keeping the fourth busiest land port of entry open 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, during five years of construction, all without interrupting the local economy and handling a growing traffic volume.

Lead contractor Hensel Phelps led the collaborative innovation together with the many subcontractors, government agencies, and others to create a four phase construction plan that gradually built new facilities, brought them online, and destroyed outdated facilities. For example, in 2012 a commercial truck would have been inspected in a new primary inspection booth, and then inspected in an old secondary inspection dock until the new inspection docks were completed. By following this innovative design the port never closed, and wait times actually decreased during construction as more inspection lanes and docks were completed.

Today, all of the old facilities have been completely removed and replaced by new, state-of-the-art commercial, non-commercial, pedestrian, and bus primary and secondary inspection facilities that incorporate a variety of modern x-ray, scanning, photography, and other inspection equipment. Also included are a new canine kennel, administration building, and other support structures. The Arizona Department of Transportation also upgraded its facilities to include seven slow speed weigh in motion (SSWIM) scales, seven credentialed processing booths, a larger building to accommodate more staff to expedite processing, improved traffic flow, and a realignment and widening of State Route 189. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Mariposa Port of Entry, or if you are interested in locating your business in Nogales, please contact the City of Nogales Economic Development office by phone at 520-287-6571, by email at, or by visiting our website at

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