PHOENIX – Construction crews on Wednesday demolished the eight prototypes of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall to make way for the installation of a replacement secondary fencing project in San Diego.
Crews used heavy machinery, including bulldozers, to dismantle the four solid-concrete and four steel-and-concrete structures erected 16 months prior at Trump’s request.
Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday the prototypes “had served their purpose” and would be removed from their location at the eastern outskirts of San Diego to make way for a $131 million project to replace steel-mesh fencing with 14 miles of 30-foot-tall, steel slats or bollards.
In a written statement, Customs and Border Protection explained why they decided to demolish the eight structures, rather than build through or around them.
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“Constructing a single design of secondary wall is more practical and effective than attempting to connect the eight prototypes to each other and the new wall due to different wall designs and foundations,” the agency said. “Removing the prototypes would be less expensive than integrating the prototypes into the new Secondary Border Wall. The long-term maintenance for multiple unique walls is a greater cost to taxpayers.”
Trump, who visited the prototypes last March, had instructed CBP to build the prototypes in order to get input and designs from the private sector on the construction of physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The government had reprogrammed $20 million in unused funds for the prototypes, including the remaining money for the replacement of 7.5 miles of fencing in Naco, Arizona.
Only $5 million was actually spent, according to a government watchdog report. About $3 million was for the eight contracts awarded to six companies chosen to build the 30-foot prototypes in San Diego, each worth between $300,000 to $500,000.
The remaining funds were for other costs such as the military-grade testing of the prototypes.
The same watchdog report found that many of the structures were riddled with deficiencies that would make it tough to build them along other parts of the border.
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CBP reiterated on Wednesday that the purpose of the prototypes was not to select a single winning design, bur rather “to explore additional border wall design attributes and features for inclusion in the current border wall design toolkit.”
The demolition brings to an end questions about the future of the prototypes.
Soon after their construction, they had become symbols of Trump’s commitment to building a wall along the border. At one point, there was even a proposal to designate them a national monument, although that idea never took off.
The prototypes had also become a popular attraction for visitors to the area. Although access from the United States was restricted to border agents, onlookers would visit the working-class neighborhood just across the border in Tijuana to get a peek at the eight structures.