Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: $83M bridge expansion project targets expanding Mexico trade; Volkswagen invests $763M in its Mexico plant; Texas border checkpoint receives $165M to speed up inspections; and Port of Harlingen awarded grant to improve dock.
South Texas officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday to kick off construction of a project that will transform the Anzalduas International Bridge into a full-service, cross-border commercial port.
The $83 million project will add multiple lanes for trucks and new cargo bays for inspections aimed at increasing trade with Mexico by allowing more commercial vehicles to travel north and south through Mission and McAllen, Texas, to Reynosa, Mexico.
The Anzalduas International Bridge, which opened in 2009, is located on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Owned and operated by the cities of McAllen, Mission and Hidalgo, the bridge is currently only open to passenger vehicles and empty commercial trucks driving southbound into Mexico.
“This is a very important project not only for McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley but our entire nation,” McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos said in a statement. “This project will provide immediate and direct enhancement to our supply chain, providing a much-needed corridor for goods to come into the country through McAllen.”
Currently the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, about 25 miles east, is the only U.S. bridge in the region that accepts loaded trucks from Reynosa. That sprawling Mexican city has more than 150 maquiladoras — factories located near the border that operate under a favorable duty- or tariff-free basis that export products to the U.S.
Reynosa’s maquiladoras produce everything from cell phone parts, home appliances and medical equipment to electronics such as circuit boards.
The Anzalduas International Bridge project was funded by a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), a $22 million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and a $63 million loan from the North American Development Bank (NADBank) to the city of McAllen.
“NADBank was pleased to provide $63 million to finance the ‘Gateway to Growth’ project at the Anzalduas International Bridge because of its demonstrated environmental, economic and social benefits for not only the Rio Grande Valley and Tamaulipas but also for the U.S. and Mexico,” NADBank Deputy Managing Director John Beckham said in a statement. “Investing in improved mobility, such as the Anzalduas expansion project, is an important piece of establishing a greener and more robust binational economic cooperation by reducing wait times, lessening economic losses and improving air quality in the region.”
Official estimates said the bridge will process about 2,000 commercial trucks a day in north-south trade in the first few years of operation. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
As of Friday, the freight market in McAllen, Texas – which includes the Anzalduas and Pharr-Reynosa international bridges – was up 8% in outbound load volume week-over-week, according to FreightWaves Sonar platform.
Automaker Volkswagen said Thursday it will invest $763.5 million over the next three years to expand its factory in the Mexican city of Puebla, build a new paint plant and start production of new electric and gasoline-powered vehicles, according to Reuters.
The German company, which makes Jetta, Taos and Tiguan models at the Puebla plant, did not disclose which new cars it would add to the production lineup.
The new gasoline-powered midsize SUV is scheduled to begin production by the end of 2024 and the EV will start in 2025.
A U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 35 north of Laredo, Texas, has received $165 million in funding to help alleviate traffic congestion.
The funding will help expand the checkpoint from six inspection lanes to 16. Once completed, the checkpoint 29 miles north of Laredo will have nine commercial inspection lanes, six passenger lanes and one dedicated bus lane. The expansion will also include four new cargo inspection areas.
The I-35 checkpoint outside of Laredo originally opened in 1986 to inspect 4,000 vehicles a day. Now, border patrol agents are inspecting an average of 17,000 passenger and commercial vehicles per day.
The funding will be done in two phases, with the first to be $15 million in fiscal year 2023 and the remaining $150 million in fiscal year 2024, according to Rep. Henry Cuellar, who helped secure the funding from TxDot.
“This project will improve international commerce, enhance public safety and reduce drug and human trafficking,” Cuellar said in a statement.
The Port of Harlingen in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley recently received a $3.9 million grant from the DOT to renovate the port’s main dock and related facilities.
Officials said the project is critical to maintain and expand shipping services for existing port customers, while providing transportation options for new ones.
“These funds will allow us to undertake much-needed rehabilitation of our main dock and mooring structures throughout our turning basin,” Walker Smith, director of the Port of Harlingen, said in a statement.
The grant will also enable the port to create a new container-on-barge service and facilitate more transportation along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.
The Port of Harlingen sits 25 miles inland of the Gulf of Mexico and 30 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. The shallow-draft, inland port provides barge and multimodal transport for commodities such as sand/cement, liquid fertilizer, sugar, cotton, grain and gasoline/diesel fuels.
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