MCALLEN, RGV – In light of Mission’s renewed push to build the Madero International Bridge, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling says that while he understands the city’s desire to get things moving, he remains mindful of the potential roadblocks that could quickly turn the project into a nonstarter.
One of the major concerns is the profitability of an additional bridge in the area. Darling, who serves as chairman of both the Anzalduas International and McAllen-Hidalgo International bridge boards, says that another bridge might not be financially sustainable. He points to Anzalduas, which opened in 2009 but is struggling to generate revenue, as an example.
“When they built Anzalduas … the peso was really the major thing you worried about. Now you got rhetoric from Austin and Washington [D.C.], you’ve got increased violence in Mexico … internet sales. They’re all different things that keep Mexicans from coming over, which support the bridge system.”
Despite the decline in Mexican shoppers, Darling says he will reserve his judgment on Madero until the completed feasibility study comes back.
“I want to make sure it’s financially feasible,” said Darling. “And, we’ll wait for the study from people smarter than me. All I know is we’re not making money on Anzalduas, yet.”
If they do receive a positive report, the actual cost to construct the bridge could be the next hurdle. A floodway runs in between Madero’s designated location, requiring a more complex and, most likely, expensive engineering plan. Moreover, construction costs could be even higher should the study indicate favorably for the implementation of rail. While Anzalduas International Bridge and the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge would support the funding of Madero, a high price tag might outweigh the benefit of building the bridge in the first place.
“One of the concepts on Madero was that it would be a short throw across the river, and so a cheap bridge to build instead of the three-mile causeway, if you will,” said Darling. “And, that’s proven not to be true … So, the Madero [International] Bridge is not going to be any cheaper than Anzalduas. And, if it ultimately is a freight bridge, it’s going to be much more expensive.”
With these things in mind, Darling is still optimistic that Madero will built. Citing the agricultural boom on which the Pharr International Bridge capitalized, he sees the need for another cargo bridge in the Valley. Once it is determined which traffic role Madero and Anzalduas will play respectively – non-cargo or partial cargo – Darling believes they will provide much needed relief to the commercial and passenger vehicles crossing into the area.
“I think it’s got great potential,” said Darling. “It’s in the right place in Mission. It’s in the right place for both our industrial zones. It’s the in the right place for Mexico. You know, I think they’ll be a joint freight facility in Mexico for us. Maquiladoras keep growing and all that, and NAFTA gets solved, and some of the violence issues in Mexico get solved, and traffic comes up – maybe we build it sooner than later. But, I’ll let the experts decide that.”
Darling added, “I think it’s a question of when, you know? That’s what I think you pay the experts for – the question of when.”