EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The City of El Paso is poised to award a $266,157 contract to a Mexican institution to find out why people cross the border and how that affects the economy of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico.

The 25-month agreement with Colegio de la Frontera Norte (Northern Border College, or COLEF) will be discussed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. A clause would extend the agreement for an additional 24 months for $262,628.

The purpose will be to “collect information and capture cross-border social and economic activity” between the two cities, said International Bridges and Economic Development Interim Director Roberto Tinajero.

That will be done by COLEF-trained staff who will attempt to quantify social and spending plans or activities of people crossing the international bridges on foot or in cars. The findings could help regional governments promote the importance of this activity and possibly suggest ways to optimize traffic flows.

This will be the second time the city and COLEF conduct the survey. The two entities signed a contract in August 2019 but suspended it due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Still, the research from the first few months shed much light on who crosses the border and why.

In a September 2020 presentation to the council, the Bridges Department said 96% of border commuters are local (59% from Juarez, 37% from El Paso County).

Mexicans who visit El Paso are likely to be young (ages between 20 and 39) and come to shop, work, visit relatives or go to school. El Pasoans visiting Juarez trend older (50 years plus) and go mostly for social reasons (family, friends), to see a health-care provider, to shop, eat or drink and, to a lesser degree, to work.

Overall, Mexicans visiting El Paso outspend Americans going to Juarez. Residents of Mexico spent an estimated $228.7 million in retail and $36.8 million in services vs. U.S. residents shelling out $118.8 million in retail and $43.1 million in services during the 24-week period in the 2019-2020 survey.

“There is a high level of retail activity among Mexico residents who cross into El Paso to shop. Almost four out of five shopping visits are tied to a retail establishment,” the 2020 report said.

Clothing and accessories stores were the top retail destination for Mexican shoppers in El Paso, with an average purchase of $150. That was followed by food and beverage establishments ($72 average bill) and general merchandise/appliance with average purchases of $158.

Almost one-in-three El Pasoans who visited Juarez buy food or drinks, spending a hefty $86 each time. That’s followed by visits to health care providers with an average tag of $177.

Those who visited El Paso or Juarez spend between two and nine hours on the other side of the border; one in five stayed overnight.

The city and the Mexican research institution believe the new agreement will be mutually beneficial.

“The information gathered through the project will help better understand the seasonal and cyclical tendencies, external factors such as money exchange-rate fluctuations, perceptions of insecurity and concerns over” any problems in crossing the international bridges on foot or in car, the agreement states.