LAREDO, Texas – The renovations at Bridge I and Bridge II in Laredo are on time, on budget, and with minimal obstruction to people and vehicles crossing in and out the United States.
This was a statement by Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who, along with representatives from the General Services Administration (GSA), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the City of Laredo and the City of Nuevo Laredo, toured both international crossing facilities, Tuesday morning.
Bridge 1 is otherwise known as Gateway to the Americas International Bridge. Bridge 2 is otherwise known as the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge.
“This port will probably be the most advanced Port of Entry, with state of the art technology and energy conservation,” said Cuellar during a press conference near Bridge I. “Mark my words, people will come and they will see what we are doing in Laredo, and they are going to be wowed by the changes they will see.”
Earlier this year, an $88.8 million renovation project started at both international bridges. Congressman Cuellar secured the combined funding during the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Fiscal Year 2014 Budget.
“On completion of all the work, the renew facilities will provide for an expedited pedestrian processing. Port operations will be consolidated, and there will be improved safety and security for those crossing the bridges, as well as those in border protection,” Sylvia Hernandez, regional administrator for the General Services Administration, said.
City of Laredo Mayor Pro-Tempore Juan Narvaez said the modernization of federal facilities at the international ports will complement all the efforts Laredo is making to beautify the area.
“Just down the block from International Bridge 1, Laredo is building the Laredo Outlet Shopping Center, an $80 million-dollar investment,” Narvaez explained. “The City of Laredo is also beautifying the first four blocks along IH-35, and downtown, Laredo is improving underground utilities, parking, lightings, sidewalks, streets.”
Nuevo Laredo Councilman Manuel Canales said this kind of work shows a glimpse of the future.
“It unites both Laredos even more, because this region will continue as leaders at the economy and trade levels,” Canales said.
Bridge 1 is 70 years old. The new funding will allow for a complete internal renovation of the main building to optimize the space to improve pedestrian flow through the port.
“By next Summer, this Bridge number 1 will be done,” Cuellar told reporters.
Improvements on Bridge I will increase the number of pedestrian processing lanes from eight to 14, thus providing a dedicated bicycle lane. The improvements will also reconfigure the primary car inspection lanes, upgrade and modernize the secondary area for further inspection, modernize security systems so drivers and pedestrians can flow through the port faster and renovate the pedestrian canopy to shade them from the sun while waiting in line.
“These (improvements) should reduce peak automobile wait times from 33 to 15 minutes, and peak pedestrian wait times from 49 to 21 minutes,” according to a press release.
U.S.-bound traffic statistics for 2014 show Bridge 1 had approximately 3.5 million pedestrian crossings and 1.3 million automobile crossings, with an estimated 2.5 million estimated automobile passengers.
Bridge 2 was ranked as the busiest crossing for bus passengers in Fiscal Year 2014, with an average of 2,796 passengers per day (125-150 bus crossings per day). Its new design will include a new bus and automobile inspection canopies and the construction of a new combined bus and passenger vehicle inspection facility.
The improved bus configuration is expected to reduce peak transit times from 160 to just 40 minutes.
Construction on Gateway to the Americas International Bridge, or Bridge I, should be done by August 2017, and the one on Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge, or Bridge II, by April 2018.
“It will not be only a Port for Laredo, but a port for the Nation, and it will be one of the most advanced in the United States,” Cuellar added.
Click here to view an animated rendering of the Gateway of the Americas International Bridge (Bridge 1) renovation design.
Click here to view an animated rendering of the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge (Bridge 2) renovation design.