Prototype Border Walls May Be Part One With No Sequel
Texas Construction News from Virtual Builders Exchange
Posted: 4-18-2017, 4:43 p.m.
by Adolfo Pesquera
On June 10, the procurement office of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will select at least eight (but no more than 10 companies) of the more than 700 that expressed interest in building prototypes of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
The CBP has not disclosed designs that have been submitted, but some companies have shared their designs with various national media organizations.
At this stage, it is far too early to guess which of the selected designs, if any, will ultimately become part of a permanent border security system. It is also too soon to definitively declare whether walls will be built that come close to the scale described by President Donald Trump.
What is known is that the available funds cover the cost to produce several very short sections of prototypes and they will be built along the California-Mexico border. The submittal deadline was April 4.
Gleason Partners proposes a concrete wall topped with solar panels to generate electricity to offset building costs. Courtesy Gleason Partners
CBP, under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security, actually issued three Requests for Proposals—the Other Border Wall (prototypes), Solid Concrete Border Wall (prototypes), and Design/Build Structure-Border Wall.
The prototypes are to be awarded as Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity task orders. Minimum standards include a height of at least 18 feet, but 30 feet is preferred. They should have anti-climbing features, be able to withstand a breach attempt of any kind for at least 30 minutes, accommodate surface drainage, CBP-approved pedestrian and vehicle access, and be cost effective to build and maintain.
“The north side of wall (U.S.-facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment,” the RFP stated.
Associated Press reported the prototypes will be built in 400-meter sections on federal land in San Diego County, California and within 120 feet of the border. Each prototype may cost between $200,000 and $500,000.
So, at some juncture in the not too distant future, the residents of Tijuana (or Tecate, depending on how far east it is placed) will have a new tourist attraction, which will probably be called the Outdoor Museum of Trump Walls.
Pro Publica reported that Trump has $20 million in hand for the border wall project, or enough to construct about 7 miles, depending on how sophisticated it is. CBP’s chief of procurement, Mark Borkowski, told Pro Publica that, barring delays, it will take two years to begin construction on the actual wall.
However, significant delays are anticipated because of reluctance in Congress, possible environmental impact studies, and lawsuits related to environmental issues and land acquisition. Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity and Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona filed suit in federal district court to require DHS undertake comprehensive environmental impact analysis, something Trump is resisting. The Center for Biological Diversity already has 10 years of experience with existing border barriers that have disrupted the migratory routes of endangered species such as ocelots and wolves, and caused flood damage.
If a monolithic wall were to be constructed across the entire length of the 2,000-mile borders, estimates put its cost at more than $20 billion. Trump requested $1.4 billion for this year, but House of Representatives Speaker Paul D. Ryanindicated the earliest appropriation would not come out of Congress until next year.
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, a Trump appointee, has already said concrete walls will only be built in places where they make sense. He has described making use of a variety of barriers, including fences. In some areas, there will not be a physical barrier, only sensors.
Some of the prototypes mentioned in news reports stick to traditional methods for barriers. Others incorporate solar or fiber optics technology to serve other purposes, purportedly to bring down cost by adding value.
As reported in CNN Money, Quantum Logistics, a Mission, Texas contractor to the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, proposes a plain concrete slab reinforced with rebar.
DarkPulse Technologies would embed fiber optics in a wall to detect tunneling, climbing or attempts at a direct breach.
Gleason Partners (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Advanced Warning Systems (Aliceville, Alabama) submitted separate proposals that have some variation of a solar power array to generate electricity and offset the cost of the wall.
Crisis Resolution Security Services Inc. proposed a “Great Wall” style system with a road atop the barrier.
The Guardian noted that one in 10 of the companies submitting proposals are Hispanic-owned. When asked for comment, the Hispanic contractors were generally of the opinion that if there is work to be had, it should be available to all, even if the concept is ill advised.
Patrick Balcazar, owner of Puerto Rican-based San Diego Project Management, PSC, said, “It’s like this. Lady Gaga, she wears some pretty wild stuff on stage … but when she goes to her tailor and asks for it, they’re not going to say, ‘That looks terrible.’”
An architectural firm from Guadalajara, Mexico designed a prototype, not for Homeland Security, but as an intern program exercise. Business Insider report the project of Estudio 3.14, which collaborated with University of Connecticut professor Hassanaly Ladha. Their massive pink wall, intended as a farce to emphasize the impracticality of the concept, was named Prison Wall, because it would house the 11 million undocumented immigrants, include factories where they would work to pay their keep, and malls for tourists.
If Homeland Security ever progresses beyond the prototype stage, here is a description of the RFP for permanent construction:
Design/Build Structure Border Wall – There are currently 654 miles of border already fortified. New construction would extend almost the length of the entire border. Phase 1, estimated at $360 million, would cover 26 miles near San Diego, California; El Paso, Texas; and the Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Phase 2 is expected to cover 151 miles in the Texas regions of the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, El Paso and Big Bend National Park, as well as Tucson, Arizona.
Phase 3 would cover an unspecified 1,080 miles. Most of the land in Phases 2 and 3 is privately owned and inaccessible by road. Construction costs are estimated from $11 million to $15 million per mile.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.