Port of Entry: El PasoEconomic Impact, 2015

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Texas' location, geography and diverse economy offer unique trade opportunities with other states and countries. Texas has a number of ports of entry, including seaports, inland ports and border crossings, which facilitate the movement of imports and exports. Texas ports of entry contribute to the state and local economies, each in a distinctive way.

The state of Texas accounted for nearly $650 billion in international trade in 2015. Of Texas' total international trade, $356 billion or 56.4 percent traveled across the state's border crossings, with El Paso's border crossings accounting for 20.3 percent of border trade, or about $72 billion.1

Based on the Comptroller's analysis, the net benefit of trade associated with the El Paso port of entry contributes an estimated 128,500 net jobs to Texas and a minimum of $18.4 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) to the Texas economy.2 (The Comptroller acknowledges there may be other economic activities directly and indirectly associated with the use of this facility that may not be reflected here.)

The El Paso "Land Port"

El Paso's border crossings together form one of 11 land ports along Texas' 1,254 mile-long border with Mexico. Each facilitates the movement of people and goods between the neighboring countries through commercial, vehicular and pedestrian traffic.3

Crossing Types
Bridges (owner/operator) Vehicles (non-commercial) Pedestrian (foot traffic) Commercial (trucks) Rail
Paso del Norte Bridge (city of El Paso)    
Good Neighbor Bridge (city of El Paso)      
Ysleta-Zaragoza Bridge (city of El Paso)  
Bridge of the Americas *  
BNSF Railroad Bridge      
Union Pacific Railroad      

* This bridge is owned by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and operated by U.S. Customs. Source: Texas Department of Transportation and City of El Paso

El Paso's land port consists of six bridges — four vehicular bridges (of which the city owns three) and two railroad bridges. All four vehicular bridges allow noncommercial vehicles, three allow pedestrian crossings and two allow commercial traffic. About 60 percent of personal vehicles crossing the border at El Paso use either the Ysleta-Zaragoza Bridge or the Bridge of the Americas; the Paso del Norte Bridge receives 70 percent of all pedestrian traffic.4 The bridges under El Paso's jurisdiction generated $19.9 million in revenue, $19.5 million of it from tolls, providing $14.1 million in operating income for the city during fiscal year 2014.5

Economic Data

In total, trade crossing through the port of El Paso accounted for $72 billion in 2015, an increase of 78 percent from 2003 ($40.5 billion).6

In addition to the bridges are customs and other operations managed by the federal government to accept entries of merchandise, clear passengers, collect duties and enforce U.S. laws.7 The U.S. Border Patrol's El Paso Sector employs about 2,400 agents.8 Numerous privately owned businesses, including warehousing, logistics and retail operations, rely on border trade and/or visitors from Mexico.

El Paso Border Crossing (Port), All Trade (All Commodities), 2003-2015. Source: Texas Centers for Border Economic and Enterprise Development

  • Top destination for goods: Mexico
  • Top Imports through El Paso: electronics; machinery; automobiles; furniture
  • Top Exports through El Paso: electronics; machinery; plastics; automobiles

El Paso's economy is strengthened by its unique relationship with the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez. The maquiladoras (Mexican factories that receive raw materials from the U.S., on a duty-free basis, and return finished goods) in Ciudad Juárez have attracted workers since the 1970s and have played an increasingly significant role since the implementation of NAFTA in the 1990s.9 The free flow of materials across the border to and from the maquiladoras directly supports the region's manufacturing and transportation companies and indirectly stimulates El Paso's retail, food and recreation industries. A 2011 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas study, for instance, found that a 10 percent increase in maquiladora output equates to a 5.3 percent increase in El Paso transportation employment.10

El Paso Border Crossings: Trade Value, 2013-2015
Overall Trade ($ billions) Trade with Mexico ($ billions)
Total Trade Exports (only) Imports (only) Total Trade Total Trade % Exports (only) Imports (only)
2015 $72.41 $30.66 $41.75 $69.44 95.90% $30.61 $38.84
2014 $68.34 $31.05 $37.28 $66.89 97.89% $31.03 $35.87
2013 $68.14 $30.46 $37.67 $66.49 97.59% $30.41 $36.08

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

It's been estimated that Mexican nationals spend about $2 billion each year in retail purchases in Texas Border towns.11 According to Comptroller estimates, this spending supports at least 40,000 jobs throughout the state.12

More than 13 million pedestrians (18,000 per day) crossed into El Paso, in 2014 and 2015, including the shoppers who constitute a meaningful portion of El Paso's local retail trade. A 2012 study conservatively estimated that Mexican nationals spent more than $446 million in El Paso, with 46 percent of that sum going to clothing and 12 percent to furniture and appliances. A Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas study has estimated that 15 percent of El Paso retail sales come from Mexican nationals.13

El Paso Border Crossing Activity, 2010-2015

  2010 2014 2015 Two-year Total (2014-15) Change (2014-15) Change (2010-15)
Trucks 710,363 746,817 758,074 1,504,891 1.5% 6.27%
Personal Vehicles 9,967,959 11,573,468 12,247,409 23,820,877 5.8% 5.8%
Pedestrians 6,930,357 6,523,026 6,847,689 13,370,715 5.0% -1.19%

Source: Texas Centers for Border Economic and Enterprise Development

Border traffic – pedestrian and otherwise – has risen steadily in El Paso in recent years. From 2010 to 2015, northbound commercial truck traffic rose by 6.3 percent and personal vehicle traffic increased 23.0 percent.14 While pedestrian traffic decreased slightly from 2010 to 2015, it still represented 38.1 percent of statewide pedestrian border traffic. El Paso's bridges see more pedestrian traffic than any other land port in the state.15

Northbound Border Crossings through El Paso in 2015
  Commercial Trucks Personal Vehicles Pedestrians (foot traffic)
El Paso Northbound Crossings 758,074 12,247,409 6,847,689
Other Texas Border Crossings 3,182,502 22,899,965 11,129,067
% of Northbound Texas Border Traffic passing through El Paso 19.2% 34.8% 38.1%

Source: Texas Centers for Border Economic and Enterprise Development

Federal Customs District Growth

El Paso's border crossings are part of the larger El Paso Customs District, which includes the area stretching from Presidio, Texas, to Columbus, New Mexico, and north to Albuquerque. With $96 billion in trade, the El Paso district relies predominantly on cross-border trade and was the nation's 13th largest district by value in 2015.16

El Paso's Customs District Total Trade, 2003-2015. Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Texas has 29 official ports of entry that serve as critical gateways to global trade. Each port, whether accessible via air, land or sea, serves a variety of domestic and international economic activity across multiple industries. The high quality of Texas' ports has a significant impact internationally as well as across the state from its largest cities to the most rural counties. Texas ports play an important role in the state's transportation network, as each directly contributes to and thus affects the entire transportation system. Texas ports contribute to the overall strength and diversity of the Texas economy, which ranks 10th in GDP when compared to other nations.17