Building the wall: A construction timeline
This timeline is ongoing and will be updated as events unfold.
A cornerstone to President Donald Trump’s agenda, construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has stirred up controversy from its earliest mentions on the campaign trail.
Even after scaling back his vision for a “great big wall” of concrete spanning nearly 2,000 miles to a steel bollard design replacing particularly rundown stretches, the president has struggled to garner the Congressional support (and funding) that’s needed for the national security push. Work is underway, but the government shutdown, national emergency declaration and other measures have stirred up so much noise in the media that these details are easily lost.
Here, we’ve distilled the timeline of events down to key funding developments and project activity over the past few years. You’ll notice some of the players involved, contract amounts, scopes of work — and that replacement of existing structure far outweighs construction of new wall. Though progress has been piecemeal, more is to come, so we’ll keep this up to date with the latest.
2017: A campaign promise takes shape
A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report said a combination of fences and walls would cost nearly $22 billion, compared to the $12 billion figure Trump cited on the campaign trail, and would take more than three years to construct.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) started drilling and testing soil samples to determine which types of walls would work best at different points along the border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) picked Caddell Construction, Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher Industries, Texas Sterling Construction and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction out of more than 200 companies.
2018: Work begins
The administration's first contract award went to SWF Constructors to install a 30-foot steel bollard wall in place of roughly 2 miles of barrier made up of scrap metal and Vietnam-era landing pads.
Barnard Construction began building a 18-to-30-foot bollard wall and making roadway and drainage improvements nearby, despite attempts by activists to stall the project with legal action after DHS waived environmental reviews.
SLS Co. started substituting 14 miles of scrap metal wall with a bollard design, raising the height of the barrier from roughly 8-10 feet to 18-30 feet topped by anti-climbing plate.
A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog, revealed that CBP tests of 2017 prototypes presented constructability challenges and did not take into consideration the varying topographies along the border.
West Point Contractors began replacing an existing chain link and metal fence with an 18-foot steel bollard wall.
Ahead of groundbreakings, the agency moved to expedite construction of new wall in Hidalgo County to close gaps left in 2008 as well as automation of wall gates in Cameron County.
SLS was contracted to build concrete wall to the height of the Hidalgo County region's existing levee, top it with 18-foot steel bollards and install surveillance technology.
Gideon Contracting started on the first $3.7 million phase, which includes the addition of seven out of 35 automated gates to border infrastructure in the Rio Grande sector.
2019: Patchy progress, wobbly funding
The president’s funding request, to support 234 miles of wall infrastructure, was $4.1 billion more than what the Senate proposed and signalled the administration’s pivot away from “concrete wall” language.
Reports surfaced that military and CBP testers found all eight prototypes destructible and were able to cut through the steel bollard fence with a saw.
Trump was unhappy with the funding deal, which was a concession for some Democrats, but subsequently signed it to reopen the government after its longest-ever, 35-day shutdown.
The White House said it would supplement the spending bill's roughly $1.4 billion with $601 million from the Treasury, $2.5 billion from DOD's counternarcotics funds and $3.6 billion from DOD's construction budget.
Just south of its 14-mile replacement of primary barrier in San Diego (see June 1, 2018), SLS started replacing secondary barrier with a similar steel bollard design.
Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. said it could construct 234 miles for $1.4 billion — roughly the same amount Congress offered in answer to Trump's $5.7 billion plea to cover the same distance.
The president requested $5 billion in CBP funds for new wall construction, as well as $3.6 billion for DOD barrier construction to replace some of the defense money he's tapping into under the emergency declaration.
Out of the $6.1 billion in defense funds made available under the emergency declaration, this amount will support construction of 57 miles of fencing on the southwest border.
The first awards under the emergency declaration were SLS' $789 million fixed-price contract for barrier replacement in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, and Barnard's $187 million design-bid-build contract for primary pedestrian wall replacement in Yuma, Arizona.
The Pentagon is ready to mobilize nearly the full emergency fund amount for projects which will include wall, levee, fencing, access roads, gates, repairs and more.
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