PHARR, RGV – Bridge crossings at the Pharr International Bridge continue to rise, says its bridge director Luis Bazan.

Bazan puts the growth down to an uptick in international trade, an improved confidence in the state of the economy, and more shippers moving their custom from Laredo to the Rio Grande Valley.

“Since the start of this calendar year, we have been spiking at about eight to nine percent growth, which is unheard of for any bridge and also for us. I put it down to the growth of business, with more companies are adding more fleet,” Bazan said.

Asked what he puts the growth down to, Bazan said: “Companies are just doing more business overall. We have also gained more customers from Laredo. The federal government has told us that there are customs brokers that have initiated the conversation about bringing in new shipments through here that are currently going through Laredo.”

Bread Basket

More cold storage facilities are being built near Pharr International Bridge. Asked if this means more trucks of fresh produce coming in from Sinaloa, considered the bread basket of Mexico, Bazan said: “I think we are going to continue seeing that trend. I don’t think we are where we wanted to be four or five years ago when we talked about the tsunami of trucks. It has slowly been inching its way in to Pharr. But, during the last produce season, from October through April, we saw a huge increase in produce trucks. That just tells us that these shipments are coming through the La Supervia Mazatlán-Matamoros superhighway.”

It was former Pharr City Manager Fred Sandoval who first coined the phrase “a tsunami of trucks” coming from Sinaloa to Pharr, once the Mazatlán to Matamoros superhighway was built. Using the new highway allows shippers moving produce from Sinaloa to the east coast of the United States to shave many hours of trucking off their journey, as compared to crossing into the United States through their traditional port of entry, Nogales, Mexico. Sandoval made the prediction in the Rio Grande Guardian.

Bazan said that while the tsunami has not arrived, increased produce is coming across Pharr International Bridge. “If you think about it, if you are cutting between five and seven hours depending on your speed, by crossing from one state to the next through that Baluarte Bridge, obviously that is a good winning point for the company. They save time and money,” Bazan said.

The Baluarte Bridge is a cable-stayed crossing located between the municipalities of Concordia in Sinaloa and Pueblo Nuevo in Durango.

Bazan made his comments in a wide-ranging interview with the Rio Grande Guardian following an RGG Live conversation on Facebook with the publication’s publisher, Mark Hanna.

Infrastructure Improvements

Asked about infrastructure improvements on the Reynosa side of Pharr International Bridge, Bazan could not be more praiseworthy.

“They are advancing like you would not believe. They are like ants over there, getting ready for the rainy season, they are just building new things like there is no tomorrow,” Bazan said, explaining that the improved infrastructure is coming in phases.

“They should finish construction of the entire modernization of the Aduana (customs) facility by October 2018. It is quite the aggressive schedule. I have to give credit to the federal government, both to the previous administrators I was working with, Sergio and Jaime, and the new administrator Alfredo. We are excited about what the future holds. We are educating Alfredo about what we are doing. He is new to the area so it is up to us to get together with him and show him around, show him what we are working on and the significance of all these investments, not just on their side but on our side as well.”

Bazan also spoke about the new loop that goes around the south of Reynosa. Pharr and Donna bridge officials say trucks coming from Monterrey will be able to reach their bridges more quickly.

“That is the final leg of the Libramiento Sur Dos, the superhighway, the northern Mexico economic corridor. It was just finished recently, at the start of 2017, but it is not officially open yet. The state government of Tamaulipas still needs to hand it over officially to Capufe because they are charging the tollways there. It is a toll road after all. But there are already cars and trucks, traveling through that roadway. We have traveled it three or four times already. We have measured the time savings. It is about 45 minutes to an hour, instead of having to go through Reynosa.”

Five-Year Plan

Bazan was also pleased to report that progress is being made with a federally approved donations acceptance program, that allows local municipalities to held fund infrastructure projects that should be built by the federal government.

“We met last week with the folks from the donations acceptance program. That is the 559, a federal program that allows us to donate and sponsor new infrastructure for the federal government. The folks from Washington came in to hand off a technical package to our architect and engineer. So, we sat there with our architect and engineer, Halff Associates. We sat there with our new city engineer, Omar Anzaldua, and we were able to have a discussion on the schematics and the layout of some of these new projects,” Bazan explained.

“This technical package is specifically for the fiscal year 2016 projects under the 559, which consists of the dock expansion phase 1, the dock expansion phase 2, which is actually our cold inspection facility, and the all-new regional ag training center and laboratory. We were able to sit at a roundtable and hand this over and start working on the next steps. This is the high-level planning part of this. Once it goes through this planning phase we will start talking about a timeline to start construction.”

The projects still have to go through environmental clearance but, said Bazan, very good progress is being made. “This is all part of our five-year master plan, and we are hoping to complete all these projects by 2021. If not earlier.”

RGG LIVE: City of Pharr Bridge Director Luis Bazan discusses the growth at the RGV's No. 1 land port of entry and international trade with Mexico.

Posted by Rio Grande Guardian on Thursday, August 10, 2017