Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge

DONNA, RGV – Donna city officials report an increase of 20 percent in the number of vehicles crossing the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge in 2016 – for a total of 1.2 million.

Bridge Director Marga Lopez said the increase is likely attributable to increased traffic on the newly completed “Libramiento Reynosa Sur II” in Reynosa, Mexico. This loop around the south of Reynosa allows travelers from Monterrey to travel from the southwest corner of Reynosa to the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge in about 15 minutes.

“Shorter wait times at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge, as compared to other crossings, has made the international bridge a favorite for Mexican travelers,” Lopez told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Marga Lopez

In addition to shorter wait times on the bridge, traveling to McAllen, Brownsville, or South Padre Island is straightforward and convenient from Donna, Lopez said.

The Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge was first opened to the public back in December of 2010. Bridge traffic has increased by 82 percent since its first year of operation, Lopez said, proudly. In 2015, total vehicle crossings hit the one million mark, she pointed out.

The most recent statistics are also encouraging, Lopez said. From October 2016 to February of 2017, crossings have been increasing steadily at a rate of nine percent. “The City is confident that the current upward trend will continue for the remaining balance of this year,” she said.

Lopez estimates that there were over 3.5 million visitors that crossed at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge last year. She said there appears to be a continued correlation between sales in the community and bridge traffic. As evidence, she pointed to the fact that Donna’s sales tax rebate from the State of Texas grew by 17 percent in 2016, bringing in an additional half a million dollars to the city’s general fund.

“The City is extremely happy with the continued increase in traffic at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge. The bridge is ahead of all traffic projections and we are pleased to acknowledge that the bridge is contributing big dividends to the economic growth of the City,” Lopez said.

Donna used to get negative news headlines for having the highest property tax rate in the State. Not anymore. In the last three years, the City has reduced property tax rate by 0.38 cents. “This appears to be a direct correlation between the increase in bridge traffic and the State’s sales tax rebate,” Lopez said.

Interim City Manager for Donna, Ernesto S. Silva said with the addition of commercial traffic on the horizon, the trends can only positively affect the City.

“An increase number in tolls that will be collected at the Bridge will definitely have a positive impact on the City’s finances,” Silva said. “The City expects for the bridge traffic and the economic growth in the community to continue. All indications by the continued increase traffic and the number of projects slated to be developed this coming year will bring in much needed jobs and investment to the community.”

Silva added that construction of commercial inspection facilities “should begin by this summer.” He said this “should initiate a new wave of development of warehousing and distribution facilities.”

Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge

A southbound truck crosses the Pharr International Bridge

Meanwhile, Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D. and the City Commission have announced that January, 2017, marked an all-time record for the total number of southbound crossings at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.

January 2017’s total for southbound truck crossings was 47,660, an increase of 3,727 (or 8.48 percent) when compared to the same month last year. It is the highest number of crossings ever recorded for a monthly period, according to the Bridge’s monthly Crossings and Revenue report.

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez

Hernandez said the bridge continues to see a “steady increase” in the monthly numbers of total crossings as compared to the same time period for the previous year, as well as when comparing year-to-date totals.

Total crossings of cars and trucks in January 2017 were at 117,900, an increase of 8,327 (or 7.6 percent) as compared to January 2016’s total crossings of 109,573. Year-to-date totals for FY 16-17 (October – January) were at 469,164, an increase of 20,539 (or 4.58 percent) as compared to totals for the same four months in FY 15-16. Total revenues year-to-date at the bridge for FY 16-17 showed an increase of $196,471 (or 4.61 percent) as compared to the same four-month period during the last fiscal year.

“Our bridge continues to be a valuable asset to Pharr, to our region, to our country, and to our neighbors, as shown by the steady and continued increase in crossings,” Hernandez said. “Here in Pharr, we are constantly working toward decreasing bridge wait times and have made great strides to improve the infrastructure, facilities, and processes at the bridge to get our trucks, vehicles, and goods crossing quickly, safely, and efficiently.

“We are encouraged by these numbers, which demonstrate that Pharr remains the bridge of choice for meeting and exceeding the needs of our customers.”

McAllen Bridge Board Report

The first commercial trucks crossed Anzalduas International Bridge in August, 2016.

In his monthly report to the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, Rigo Villarreal, McAllen’s superintendent of bridges, said 251,000 vehicles crossed the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge in February, 2017. “We have seen about a two percent growth compared to last year, starting with our fiscal year in October,” Villarreal explained.

For the Anzalduas International Bridge, there were 87,569, vehicle crossings, about a three percent increase over the same month last year.

Rigo Villarreal

“We have not been affected by this political rhetoric at all. Maybe one weekend we were affected may be by 1,200 vehicles at the Hidalgo Bridge, but not Anzalduas,” Villarreal said.

Last summer, the Anzalduas International Bridge started accepting southbound empty trucks. The numbers have been steadily increasing since that time, Villarreal reported.

“With the commercial empties, initially, we started the last week of August, 2016, on August 22. We had probably 60 trucks. The month after that, September, we had 660. And every month we have been increasing between eight to 12 percent, consistently every month so that last month we had about 1,024 trucks,” Villarreal said.

“We are getting a lot of resistance from our competitors so we are trying new things. We did offer an incentive in the middle of September, where we slashed the tolls by 55 percent. We are evaluating that, as to whether we keep it going. We may offer a better incentive, temporarily, for maybe 30 days, and then go back online with the regular price because we are losing about $10,000 a month with that incentive. We are evaluating.”

But, Villarreal said, McAllen Bridge Board is doing well, financially, overall. “We have got a reduction in our interest rates for our bonds, so we are going to save about $250,000 a year. We are doing very well.”

Villarreal added that he is planning to go to Mexico City next few weeks.