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LAREDO, Texas – Considered the busiest land port in the United States, the World Trade Bridge is to undergo a major transformation.

A $100 million plan will cover areas such as the Federal Inspection Station, a specific lane for FAST trucks, and expansion from eight lanes to 16 lanes.

Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, met with local, state, federal and international stakeholders at the World Trade Bridge, and also addressed the media during a press conference, Wednesday morning.

Cuellar said that with a better technology, the commerce-only bridge will transform the port into a World Trade Bridge 2.0, or a world-class cargo facility.

“The World Trade Bridge (handles) over $300 billion in trade generated and over 2 million trucks crossing annually,” said Cuellar. “Laredo is a powerhouse when it comes to trade, and we want to make sure we remain No. 1.”

Some advantages, Cuellar said, include: “more efficient processing, increased cargo capacity and reduced wait times.” This, he said, “would save millions of dollars in lost economic output and create jobs while securing our strategic location as a world trade hub.”

World Trade Bridge 2.0

Plans for the World Trade Bridge include transforming the Federal Inspection Station in the next few years to increase cargo efficiency by:
* Allowing for automated pre-screening and inspection data collection of U.S.-bound cargo earlier in the supply chain
* Automating certain functions allowing CBP Officers to focus inspection skills on high-risk enforcement, security and compliance shipments
* Integrating technologies such as robust WIFI capability, Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), drive through multi-energy truck portal X-ray systems and other CBP Cargo Processing systems into a common software package, and include state of the art modern traffic control queueing systems
* Building out a cargo traffic control tower with an operations center, X-Ray Image analysis stations, and cameras to monitor actives through the compound in real time and provide managers with container status at any point and the tools to monitor efficiency
* Including State of the Art Inspection and Technology Training Center and Agricultural Laboratory
* Maximizing joint inspections with other U.S. Federal, State, and Mexico Customs partners to the greatest extent possible
* Providing flexible and scale-able inspection areas to meet future needs including bypass lanes

The City of Laredo is investing $10.3 million from the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Lanes Relocation Project.

559 Program

In his update, Cuellar said the City of Laredo, CBP, and GSA plan to construct a dedicated lane for the sole use of participants in the trusted shipper program. FAST-accredited trucks will be allowed to use the lanes to access the new inspection facility.

The plan includes a new roadway connecting to four new primary inspection booths, a non-intrusive, inspection (NII) area, two exit control booths; and access to the current secondary inspection facility and Hazmat area.

“This project is expected to reduce choke-points and increase the bridge’s capacity by 47 percent while reducing trusted shippers traffic delay times from 30 minutes to five minutes,” Cuellar said. “It is anticipated to require three years of design, procurement, and construction.”

Applications in process

The City of Laredo is working on an application to amend its Presidential Permit to expand the World Trade Bridge from eight lanes to 16 lanes.

The City of Laredo, Webb County, the Regional Mobility Authority (RMA), and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), have submitted a $96 million ‘Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) Grants’ program application to the U.S. Department of Transportation to create additional lanes on Bob Bullock Loop (U.S. Interstate 69 West) from the Port of Entry to U.S. Interstate 35 (I-35) and five direct connectors on the I-35/I-69 Interchange.

Cuellar said he will meet July 10 with Randi Fredholm-Hutchinson, Chief Counsel for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, to talk about transportation and trade with stakeholders, and to discuss DOT’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.

During the press conference on Wednesday, CBP Acting Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner Todd C. Owen, CBP Office of Field Operations Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner John Wagner, CBP Director Field Operations David P. Higgerson, CBP Assistant Director for Field Operations Brad Skinner, CBP Port Director for the Laredo Port of Entry Greg Alvarez, CBP Deputy Port Director Alberto Flores, Senator Cornyn, Mayor Pete Saenz and the City of Laredo and stakeholders, were recognized for their support of these projects.