PHARR, RGV – In his review of 2015, Luís Bazán, interim director of Pharr International Bridge, gave blessings to the fresh produce industry.
“It has been an excellent year for our bridge, thanks especially to the produce industry. We cannot stress enough how important the produce industry is for us. We cross approximately 60 percent of all the fresh produce that is coming into Texas from Mexico,” Bazán said.
“And that number is only expected to increase. I know you have seen the numbers. In the next three to five years we are expecting to see 40 to 50 percent more trade. All the studies point to this.”
Bazán gave his thoughts on the past 12 months while attending a news conference held at Pharr City Hall by Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez. The news conference, titled Promises Made, Promises Kept, was staged to review City of Pharr activities in 2015.
Bazán said the Pharr Bridge Board is currently involved in a heavy marketing campaign in Mexico to promote the bridge and a new loop that will go around the south side of Reynosa and connect to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.
“We are meeting with growers, meeting with producers, meeting with shippers, to tell them about another option- that Pharr is the right option for them when they consider which bridge to cross,” Bazán said.
In fact, Bazán pays a visit to Mexico almost every other week, either to promote the bridge or to meet with Mexico officials on key infrastructure projects.
“We are excited about the new loop. It is a continuation of the Mazatlán to Matamoros corridor. After that is complete the State of Tamaulipas is going to develop an interchange to direct even more traffic to our bridge. We are putting a lot of effort into this so that trucks and even passenger vehicles take that loop and use our bridge.”
Asked if Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto might attend the official opening of the new loop, Bazán said: “He did that for the Viaducto in Reynosa, which was inaugurated back in the summer. So we are expecting him for this project also. This is a major corridor and it is part of the Mazatlán corridor. It will connect with what the state is working on, which will connect to our bridge, coming in from the major highway close to the airport and the major maquila plants.”
Bazán said the Pharr Bridge Board is also working closely with Aduana, the Mexican customs agency, to ensure there is more efficiency on the Reynosa side of the bridge. “We are not just gifting donations for infrastructure inside our port but we are also working closely in Mexico with our Mexico liaison to make sure these projects get put in place in Mexico, so they can streamline the process and tie it in directly with our projects. There are going to be some positive changes inside the port, so that Customs can separate full cargo, empties and certified trucks. We are pleased to be of assistance.”
On the Pharr side of the bridge a number of infrastructure improvements are underway to ensure trucks spend less time on the bridge.
“That is the name of the game, trying to get trucks off the bridge as quickly as possible. We are trying to streamline the process, to be more efficient in order to reduce wait times. By adding additional lanes, adding additional booths, by paying overtime hours during peak hours, we are already doing that. We just need to augment the services we currently have.”
Bazán also shed more light on a project Mayor Hernandez referred to in his news conference. Pharr EDC, working with the City of Pharr, helped facilitate the construction of a new 100,000 square foot building in the South Pharr industrial corridor.
“The Pharr Bridge Business Park is off of Hi-Line Road. It’s a 100,000 square-foot facility and the owners are going to build two more facilities of the same magnitude, as well as another 50,000 square foot facility. It is a total of about 52 acres or so. That development itself will help push traffic through the bridge. In essence it is more business for us. It will ensure more trade happening in south Pharr.”
Bazán concluded the interview by repeating a line he always gives when talking to the press.
“The City of Pharr is open for business. We are a vehicle for prosperity, that is the best way to describe what we do. We are not just contributing to the local economy – we are contributing to the state’s economy and the nation’s economy. This is a binational effort. It is huge. We contribute to the rest of the world because we are bringing in trade from other countries. In 2014 we did $30 billion in total trade with the rest of the world. It is a big deal. We need to ensure our services are adequate, top-notch and that we continue facilitating trade in the most efficient manner.”
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a four-part series titled Pharr – A Year in Review. Click here to read Part One, featuring Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez. Click here to read Part Two, featuring Valley Interfaith in Las Milpas. Click here to read Part Three, featuring Pharr City Manager Juan Guerra.