MISSION, RGV – Later today, Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto will officially dedicate the new Tornillo-Guadalupe Port of Entry and International Bridge, 30 miles downstream of El Paso.

Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas hopes the next international bridge the President Peña Nieto dedicates will be in the Rio Grande Valley. Salinas is pushing hard to get a new bridge built at Madero, a rural area just upstream from the Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission.

Rigo Villarreal
Rigo Villarreal

“We are going to build another bridge, in Madero, and it is going to be the same people involved again, Hidalgo, McAllen and Mission. We are putting it together. We are working with Mexico and Mexico wants it,” Salinas told the Rio Grande Guardian.

The cities of Hidalgo, McAllen and Mission worked together to build the Anzalduas International Bridge. Salinas said the same entities are now collaborating on the Madero project by polling resources to fund a feasibility study.

“We are getting ready to visit federal officials in Mexico. Mexico wants to do it now. They are really interested in the bridge. Of course we are too. We have four-hour waits at Anzalduas. The quicker we get it done the better,” Salinas said.

Salinas pointed out that the City of Mission has had a presidential permit to build another bridge since 1978.

“It is not going to be large bridge. It will be a small bridge. Hopefully we can get it started soon. I think we will be under construction by the time my term is up. We are looking at about $28 million to construct the bridge. We have the resources, between the three cities, to pay for it. We should start around August of this year.”

Salinas also spoke about managing truck traffic at Anzalduas International Bridge.

“There are too many people coming across the bridge. It takes hours for them to cross. We want to be able to get more people across, trucks and people, a lot faster. I think we will be able to have northbound trucks at Anzalduas in about a year, southbound sometime soon. In a year we will have trucks crossing loaded,” Salinas said.

“With Madero, if we can create that, we can help Pharr alleviate some of their problems with the trucks. They have too many trucks. If we can build the bridge at Madero we can have the trucks on the expressway (I-2) in five minutes.”

Rigo Villarreal is superintendent for the Hidalgo and Anzalduas international bridges. If Madero is constructed, he would have another bridge to oversee.

“The McAllen Bridge Board and the three cities have agreed that a feasibility and traffic study will be put out to bid to analyze whether there is a need for an additional bridge. That is step number one for any new project. It is something that the State Department requires, GSA requires, and Customs and Border Protection requires,” Villarreal told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“I think the bids should be coming in within the next couple of weeks. There has been some good feedback in Mexico about building a new bridge. We do not know about the reception here in the U.S. yet. The feasibility study will be the most important thing.”

Villarreal said McAllen and Mission leaders are thinking that the Madero bridge should exclusively handle commercial traffic. “No empty trucks, just cargo. It is not decided yet but that is the thinking. Mexico is very supportive. Under the Peña Nieto administration, they have not built a new bridge. That is a good reason to think the Madero project will be supported.”

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said he supports a feasibility study for Madero. “As more and more commercial traffic comes through the Valley, the need for another bridge is going to be obvious,” Darling said.

McAllen Economic Development Corporation wants to see a new international bridge for rail. A presidential permit has been granted. Asked if a rail component could be incorporated into the Madero project, Mayor Darling said: “There is a rail permit too but they are different animals. You have to negotiate with the rail companies. My understanding is the rail companies are looking at Laredo as a possible location. We have an area that does not have a lot of crossings. It is not in an urban area so we think there is an advantage there but that will be up to the rail company to decide if they want to go through Laredo, the Valley, or both.”

Darling added that the City of McAllen has asked the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority to look into the possibility of incorporating a rail line along new RMA rights of way. “We have asked the RMA to do a study on whether it would be feasible to have rail along the RMA right of ways. If you have overpasses you could have rail. It is lot cheaper if you do it at the same time.”

The Tornillo-Guadalupe International Bridge. Photo: El Diario/Ernesto Rodríguez.
The Tornillo-Guadalupe International Bridge. Photo: El Diario/Ernesto Rodríguez.

The new $96 million Tornillo-Guadalupe Port of Entry and International Bridge replaces the narrow 77-year-old Fabens-Caseta international bridge, which is about 650 yards downstream from the new span. A groundbreaking for the new bridge was held in 2011 but a lack of funding in Mexico meant its construction was delayed.

Planners hope the new bridge will spark an economic boom and attract manufacturing plants and long lines of trucks to a now-remote region southeast of two congested crossings between Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows Mission Mayor Norberto ‘Beto’ Salinas.

Editor’s Note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.