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Researchers creating first bi-national GIS

Researchers from New Mexico State University have completed the first phase of what will be the most detailed map ever produced of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border and its 39 crossings. The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, comes as a result of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“When NAFTA was created, highway officials on both sides of the border recognized there would be tremendous pressure put on ports of entry and the adjacent road systems,” said Robert Czerniak, professor of geography at NMSU.

Czerniak and researchers in NMSU’s Spatial Applications and Research Center are developing a binational geographic information system (GIS) that will include data on all the roads, railroads, airports and ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as socioeconomic data and environmental information. The NMSU researchers have recently completed their map of the New Mexico-Mexico border and will be presenting their research in March to officials from both countries. Their next step will be to map the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona and Texas. The completed project will cover 100 kilometers on each side of the border. One immediate benefit of the project will be to help officials develop plans for a much-needed expansion of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in New Mexico.

The project also will help El Paso with plans to improve its six border crossings and with plans to develop a proposed international beltway around El Paso and Juarez. NMSU researchers will continually update the database and make it available to various government entities for planning purposes. The binational GIS project is the latest project undertaken by NMSU’s Spatial Applications and Research Center, which was created in 1982 to do contract geographic research for federal, state and local governments.