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Customs and Border Protection Deploys the First National Network of Information Radio Stations
WASHINGTON, DC:  In 2012 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) installed special information radio stations, referred to as a Travelers Information Station / Highway Advisory Radio (TIS/HAR) system, at key land border ports of entry, providing information to approaching motorists with the intention of expediting their passage across the border.

Federally licensed 10-watt AM radio stations had already been installed in El Paso, Laredo, Texas; San Luis, Arizona; and Calexico (East), California. Additional sites were planned on the southwest border; and locations on the US / Canadian border were under consideration.
Left: Overhead changeable message signs announce the radio frequency to motorists approaching the El Paso, Texas, entry port.
Right: Motorists line up in Mexicali, Mexico, to enter the USA via the Calexico (east), California, entry port.    
High above ground, Technician Geoff Penna installs the Information Radio Station antenna at Laredo, Texas. A Vertical Profile Antenna Support and Grounding System was utilized to minimize size and visual impact and to reduce installation time.
Information Station Specialists of Zeeland, Michigan, provided the design, electronic equipment and installation services for the pilot project.

These stations can broadcast time-sensitive messages developed at the local ports of entry, in addition to messages developed at the national level by CBP Headquarters. On October 10, 2012, GSN Government Security News reported that the newest station would be located at the Bridge of the Americas (BOTA). The public could tune to the 10-watt signal at AM 1620. “The goal of the radio broadcasts is to communicate important border crossing information to members of the traveling public in the vicinity of the port of entry,” said 2012 CBP El Paso Port Director Hector Mancha. “From one end of the radio dial to the other, CBP in El Paso now broadcast vital bilingual travel information 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The BOTA system supplements a similar low-power radio that went live at the Ysleta crossing in February of the same year. According to the CBP, each signal broadcasts a bilingual message several miles away from the ports. The CBP has indicated that the pilot program would be monitored for effectiveness and would inform further system installations and messaging.

As stated above, to date, The CBP has installed AM radio frequency transmitters at six locations on the southwest border including the two in El Paso, and one each in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas; San Luis, Arizona, and Calexico, California.

CBP project manager Daniel Piscopo stated in 2012 that the broadcast messages would include “how to use high-tech travel cards, information about CBP's Trusted Traveler Programs, basic border crossing rules and regulations, emergency travel information and updates, and border wait times.”

Results of the pilot survey conducted by CBP at El Paso, Texas, indicated that there was considerable awareness and favorability regarding use of the radio stations and agreement that they would be especially valuable as a tool to gauge wait times.

CBP is now able to communicate directly to travelers about how to expedite their border crossings, for example, by broadcasting information about CBP programs, such as the Ready Lane -- an expedited travel lane for people with radio frequency identification technology enabled cards -- and Trusted Traveler lanes for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.

Radio broadcasts can be heard for several miles around the ports, giving CBP the ability to provide necessary information to travelers as they approach the border. Perhaps someday it will be common practice for motorists to reach for their radios as they reach the US. 

CBP news release, "CBP Launches Border Radio Pilot; AM Radio System Installed to Inform Land Border Crossers," 2012.
US Mexico Border
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Information Radio Station is a generic term synonymous with Travelers Information Station (TIS), Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) / Highway Information Systems & Low Power Radio Stations (LPR). Operation of the stations is governed by FCC Part 90.242 Rules. A FCC license is required. Information Radio Stations may be fixed or portable. Subcomponents may include transmitter, antenna and ground system, digital voice player, wattmeter, cabinet with conventional or Corbin locks, lightning arrestors for RF, power and telephone lines, coaxial cable. Most stations employ black maximized antennas to discourage ice accumulation and security measures to prevent unauthorized program access. Options include synchronization, battery backup, solar power, remote programming by local, network or telco, multi-station audio distribution via RF or LAN / WAN or wireless network.