|McALLEN, September 4 - The Rio Grande Valley is bound to reap the benefits of a historic public works project taking place in Mexico, the country’s largest ever highway that will shift potentially millions of containers of product from Arizona to Texas, according to representatives from Mexico.
Mexican officials and economic development leaders say that the country’s Corredor Económico del Norte will immediately rival Central America’s Panama Canal when it comes to trade.
“It’s historic because this is the most expensive project that has ever been made in Mexico,” said Sergio Romero Barrera, a representative from Ciudad Mazatlán. Romero was present at an event last week at the McAllen Chamber on behalf of Mazatlán Mayor Alejandro Higuera Osuna, who seeking to build an alliance of sister cities between Mazatlán and the Valley.
“Where previously, all the roads were built from north to south, this will be the first that crosses from west to east,” Romero said. “It’s going to be like the Panama Canal. The merchandise of Asia will arrive faster and more efficiently through the Atlantic this way.”
Sinaloa is one of the highest producing states of perishable goods from Mexico into the U.S. The upcoming trade route will facilitate the import of nearly $4 billion of perishable product into the U.S., according to experts along the border.
Between 70 to 80 percent of the vegetables that Mexico produces are grown in Sinaloa. Produce then gets shipped to the east coast and into Europe via corridors, which traditionally have run through Nogales in Arizona, an 18-hour trip. The new Corredor will cross seven states in Mexico, starting in Mazatlán, and will cut the time it takes to get to the U.S. from 18 to 10 hours, ending in Matamoros.
The highway took six years to build at a cost of $3 billion dollars (American), and is the largest public works project ever undertaken in the history of the Republic of Mexico, according to Mexican officials.
The engineering marvel will encompass over 60 tunnels and 60 bridges to connect what is considered the breadbasket of Mexico, the Sinaloa-Durango area, to the Rio Grande Valley. As a result, the highways will become the closest connection ever between the Pacific and the Gulf Coast when it opens later this year.
“I liken this to the building of the railroads from the east to the west coast of the United States in the 19th Century,” said Port of Brownsville Commissioner Ralph Cowen. “There has never been an east-west corridor in Mexico. For them to go to Arizona, where they go for shopping, takes 17 hours. This will be like a new Monterrey. They won’t go to Arizona, they will come to the Valley.”
Mazatlán handles 500,000 containers of product a year. When the new super highway opens, Mexican officials project the number will increase to two million containers. If shippers and brokers double their truckloads their costs will be comparable to rail rates and be competitive with Panama Canal, according to Cowan.
“What is coming out of Mazatlán’s port will be trans-shipments, headed for U.S, so they will have a new route for China containers,” Cowen said.
The new highway is bound to radically change Mexico. More than 15 million live in the Sinaloa-Durango region and Mazatlán itself has about half a million people. When it’s up and running all the products from Asia entering Mazatlán’s port that are headed to the south and east coast of the U.S. will likely come across the highway, supporters say.
“Look at LG Televisions of South Korea. They make their TVs in Reynosa for the U.S. market. They import their parts via Long Beach, in California and cross them into Reynosa via Pharr. Now, they can cross them via Mazatlán and it will be cheaper,” Cowan said.
Romero says Mazatlán officials are already working with the Mexican federal government on security issues along the highway. The cities of Torreón, Monterrey, Ramos Arizpe, Durango, Saltillo, Reynosa and Matamoros and the Rio Grande Valley are all directly affected by potential violence along the corridor, so security measures will be implemented. Romero did not provide specific details.
We are taking safety very seriously,” he said. “We are talking to federal authorities that are in charge of this, and they are taking care of this, and they are going to be making special plans to take care of the security 100 percent.”