LAREDO, Texas – The Border Trade Alliance has praised Congressman Henry Cuellar for his work to ensure freight corridors are recognized as extending all the way to the nation’s borders.
Currently, the national highway freight network misses key ports of entry, including Laredo, because a cap has been set at 27,000 miles. However, a draft of the long-term Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 increases the cap to 41,000 miles.
By doing this the national highway freight network absorbs the stretch of Interstate Highway 35 between the Laredo port of entry and San Antonio, along with other key stretches of road across the country.
The Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 also offers a long-term extension of highway and transit funding authority through the Highway Trust Fund. The fund needs to be reauthorized by Congress by October 29.
“We appreciate the hard work of Rep. Cuellar to ensure that our freight corridors are recognized as extending all the way to our national borders,” Border Trade Alliance Chairman Jesse Hereford told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“This issue has been a central part of our agenda, and we’ve met with Chairman Shuster to spotlight the unique transportation needs of the border. The congressman should also be commended for working in a bipartisan manner with his colleagues, U.S. Rep. William Hurd and U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul to give border state governors the flexibility they need with transportation dollars to fund projects in the border region that will help alleviate trade-related congestion and bottlenecks.”
In a news release, Cuellar said he has consistently advocated to secure transportation and infrastructure dollars for Laredo and the Texas border region. “I thank Chairman Bill Shuster, of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for his leadership and for including these provisions in the highway bill,” Cuellar said. “I also thank Ranking Member Peter DeFazio. I look forward to working with them both to improve this important bill.”
Cuellar said he particularly appreciates Shuster’s commitment to understanding the transportation issues that affect his South Texas district. Last year, Shuster visited Texas and traveled with Cuellar down I-35 “to see what an oversight it was to leave it out of the freight network,” Cuellar said. He pointed out that 40 percent of all land traffic between the U.S. and Mexico passes through Laredo and ends up on I-35. “Laredo is home to the nation’s largest inland port, which services over 12,000 daily commercial truck crossings and 1,500 daily rail crossings. Nearly enough trucks cross the border at Laredo every year to wrap around the earth twice,” Cuellar said.
Cuellar added that the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 also includes a new Surface Transportation Block Grant Program which allows border infrastructure projects to compete for grants nationwide. Cuellar said it is good to see border infrastructure included in this grant program. However, he said it falls short of a bill he, Hurd and McCaul introduced earlier this year. Cuellar said the bill he, Hurd and McCaul introduced would allow states to set aside funds specifically for border infrastructure projects. “This program would provide needed certainty for improvements along the border, including at the Laredo port of entry,” Cuellar said.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows, from left to right, Border Trade Alliance Chairman Jesse Hereford, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, chair of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Border Trade Alliance Board Member Jim Ryan of Constellation Brands, and Sergio Contreras, interim executive director for Pharr Economic Development Corporation.