SANTA TERESA, N.M. (AP) — Work is beginning along a 20-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border in southern New Mexico to replace existing vehicle barriers with a new bollard wall.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials gathered Monday to mark the groundbreaking of the $73 million project at Santa Teresa near New Mexico’s state line with Texas.

Officers in the area are responsible for a sprawling desert territory that spans a portion of West Texas and all of New Mexico.

They say the area remains an active route for illegal crossings and drug trafficking and that the existing barriers aren’t meeting their needs.

During the last fiscal year, officials say more than 25,000 immigrants suspected of trying to enter the country illegally and seized more than 34,000 pounds of marijuana and 140 pounds of cocaine.

The bollard-style wall that will be installed over the next year west of the Santa Teresa port of entry will be at least 18 feet tall with a 5-foot plate at the top to prevent people from climbing over it.

It will be filled with concrete and rebar and extend several feet into the ground.

There will be another couple feet of concrete below that to prevent people from digging under it.

El Paso Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Hull says by replacing existing vehicle barriers with the new wall, agents will be able to better address the rising number of illegal crossings with the help of a physical deterrent and technology.

(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)