U.S. and Mexican leaders announced a test Friday to allow Mexican trucks full access to the state and the rest of the nation, raising concerns among Southern California, state and national officials about smog, traffic and safety. The one-year program allows an unlimited number of trucks from 100 Mexican companies to carry cargo beyond the current 25-mile border zone. Estimates vary widely on how much pollution would be generated by a sharp increase in the number of polluting diesel engines on the freeways. But one study predicted Mexican trucks could add 50 tons per day of smog-forming emissions – more than pollution generated by the region’s 350 biggest industrial sources combined. “This could have a major impact in terms of traffic, air quality and the border. We’re going to have to take a close look at it,” said Scott Gerber, spokesman for California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein is on the Senate Appropriations Committee panel and plans to launch an inquiry into the program next month. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who heads the committee, questioned the Bush administration’s claim that it has fulfilled a raft of safety requirements Congress mandated several years ago before cross-border trucking could go forward. “International trade is a critical engine of our nation’s economy, but safety must not be the victim when it comes to expanding trade with our partners,” she said. As part of the agreement, U.S. inspectors will be allowed to examine the trucks as well as check licenses, insurance and driving records of the Mexican drivers before they cross into the United States. Trucks are expected to enter the U.S. within a matter of weeks. “This program will make trade with Mexico easier and keep our roads safe at the same time,” Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said during an announcement in El Paso, Texas, on the border of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Boyce Clayton, spokesman for the American Trucking Association, also hailed the decision, saying “opening the border will improve the transportation industry.” Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico and the U.S. were supposed to have allowed full access for each other’s trucks by 2000. Concerns over driver and equipment safety as well as air pollution had limited them to a zone within 20 miles of the border. But after opponents in 2004 lost a Supreme Court battle to block the border opening, the administration has moved forward. The pilot program, if successful, could pave the way for full access of all Mexican trucks. For California, the air quality implications are serious, said Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Because Mexico does not have low-sulfur diesel fuel, he said trucks coming from south of the border will produce higher emissions. [email protected] (202) 662-8731160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!