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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU researchers creating the first binational geographic information system (GIS)

Researchers from New Mexico State University have completed the first phase of what will eventually be the most detailed map ever produced of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border and its 39 crossings.

Matthew Rich (left), director of NMSU's Spatial Applications and Research Center, and Robert Czerniak (right), professor of geography, are developing a binational geographic information system (GIS) that will include data on all the roads, railroads, airp

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.

"We're in a unique position to do this project because we are centrally located along the border and can offer an objective perspective," Czerniak said.

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.

"When we opened we had about 150 cars a day. Now we have about 1,000 cars a day," said Port Director Lupe Ramirez. "This project will help us make sure expansion plans line up on both sides of the border."

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.

"If these two cities can plan together as if they were one, they will have a huge advantage over other border cities because no one else is thinking this way," Czerniak said.

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. To date, the center has done more than $3 million worth of projects for agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, New Mexico Department of Transportation, New Mexico Department of Economic Development and the New Mexico Secretary of State (Elections Bureau). It also has done contract work for at least for 33 cities and 15 counties in New Mexico.