Over the past four weeks, workers have been toiling (mostly in intense 90+ degree heat) to put final touches on eight possible versions of President Donald Trump's long-promised border wall, ahead of an October 26 deadline to finish the prototype border-wall designs located just a few dozen yards from the border that divides San Diego from Tijuana. U.S. Customs and Border Protection awarded eight contracts to six companies to build the prototypes. Four are made of reinforced concrete, and another four incorporate additional construction materials. Construction began on Sept. 26, giving companies 30 days to finish, according to the Arizona Republic.
By Wednesday, five of the wall designs had already been completed and were fenced off with caution tape, but - as the following video shows - crews were still at work on others, installing vertical concrete panels on one design, using cranes and bulldozers to place them upright. Another two prototypes were in various stages of construction on the demonstration site, located about 2 miles east of San Diego's Otay Mesa border crossing, in the foothills of the Otay Mountains. At roughly 30 feet, the designs dwarf the petite, primary fence that currently designates the international boundary — it's made of rusted Vietnam War-era landing mats. They are also nearly twice the height of the secondary metal-mesh fence, which ends near where the prototypes are being built.
Their height, officials quoted by the AZ Republic said, is intended to make a statement to criminals and would-be unauthorized crossers: Stay away.
"The 30 feet is very impressive," said Mario Villareal, the division chief for the San Diego Sector Border Patrol. "What we're trying to accomplish is by putting tactical infrastructure on the border, by having all-weather roads, by putting Border Patrol agents on the immediate border is the deterrence."
Of course, whether the border-wall prototypes "keep people away", is what matters, and will be closely scrutinized in the coming weeks. After they are done, CBP will move to the "test and evaluation" of each of the eight structures.
What do the prototypes look like?
One built by a Maryland company uses concrete at the base with the top two-thirds featuring blue metal panels. Another, built by an Alabama company, has a wide concrete base that gives way to a thinner frame halfway up the structure. Also, only one of the completed designs incorporates see-through features that would allow Border Patrol agents to monitor activity on the other side of the border.
Initially, Trump called for a solid reinforced concrete design, and several of the finished prototypes seemed to fit that description. Under advisement from CBP, the administration later included "see-through features" in its call for submissions. A second design by the Alabama company features metal bars for the first half of the prototype, narrowly spaced and resembling the bollard-style fencing commonly used at the border in Arizona's urban areas. But the top half has what appears to be solid concrete panels.
Quoted by the AZ Republic, Border Patrol Agent Theron Francisco said the ability to see across the border can be beneficial. It's an option they don't have now with landing-mat fencing in the area. "It's good to be able to see through the south side. We can see them, they can see us," he said. "But in a way, it can be negative because we're always being watched. They always can see us. It goes both ways." Meanwhile, the concrete design is made up of three long, concrete frames that gently slope upward from the U.S. side, but are completely vertical on the south side. The concrete is a light tan, nearly the same color as the dusty soil it stands on.
The cost of eight contracts ranges from $320,000 to $480,000. CBP has already appropriated the funds to pay for them. However, funding for additional construction is still up in the air and remains the object of major political disagreement in Congress.
And until we find out if Trump's wall will ever amount to anything more than a pipe dream, here is drone footage taken earlier today of the Border Wall prototypes.