MCALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley needs to a fully-functioning Anzalduas International Bridge in readiness for the ratification of USMCA, says McAllen Mayor Jim Darling.

At the moment, the bridge can only take empty trucks. Within two or three years the infrastructure will be in place to take fully loaded trucks north and southbound, Darling predicts.

“We think if USMCA passes, we are going to have more parts manufacturers here. Those parts will be shipped from here and assembled in Mexico and then they will come back again,” Darling predicted, in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling

“One of the first things the manufacturers ask is, what is your bridge capacity? And, if you only have one bridge, what happens if you cannot cross? With just-in-time manufacturing, those questions are crucial. It kind of defeats the purpose of us being over there (Asia or Europe) to recruit maquilas and you don’t have the infrastructure to get the goods back to the United States.”

USMCA stands for United States-Mexico-Canada. It is a trade agreement under consideration by the three North American countries. If ratified by Congress it will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Anzalduas International Bridge, which opened for business in 2009, is owned jointly by the cities of McAllen, Mission and Granjeno. The approximate cost of upgrading the bridge to move cargo north and south bound is approximately $52 million.

“We are trying to get some federal money for the bridge. It is difficult because the federal government is always doing continuing resolutions for funding, so they always have the excuse that they have no money in the budget, no line item,” Darling said.

“There are two grant programs we are looking at. With one of them, last year we made it to the secretary’s desk but did not get picked. This year we did not make it. We have another chance in November so hopefully we will get some federal money.”

The City of McAllen was disappointed its lobby team could not get funding for Anzalduas International Bridge during this year’s legislative session in Austin.

“We have also appealed to the state through Chairman Canales,” Darling said, referring to state Rep. Terry Canales, the Edinburg lawmaker who chairs the House Committee on Transportation.

“I got tired of waiting so we are taking economic development money and doing the engineering studies ourselves. So, we will have that ready. That is going to take approximately a year. We will hopefully let that contract in October, or November at the latest.”

Darling said upgrading Anzalduas International Bridge can happen with or without federal funds.

“I want federal money but I think if we had to we could issue our own debt and do it. It is going to cost about $52 million. There is a Mexican component to this and we are working with the Mexican concessionaire. We have got to do both sides of the bridge. They have to spend less money than we do. We are trying to coordinate things so we both come on board at the same time.”

In Mexico, a bridge is developed either by state government, the federal government or by a private concessionaire. “In the case of Anzalduas, we have a private one, which it makes it a bit more complicated,” Darling acknowledged.

In a previous interview, Darling said the cost of the engineering studies would be around three to four million dollars.

“I want to go out to construction in a couple of months. It is not a new bridge and it is not a lot of vertical. It is mostly lanes and booths and secondary inspections. I have been to the one in Nogales. Theirs are not sophisticated buildings,” Darling said.

“I heard the engineering could take 18 months but I do not see why it cannot be done in 12 months. It is not rocket science.”

Nogales International Bridge in Arizona used to be the number one port of entry for fresh produce in the country. However, it has lost this slot to Pharr International Bridge in recent years.

Asked if Anzalduas International Bridge could be renovated to take fully loaded trucks, northbound and southbound, within two or three years, Darling said: “Absolutely. It better be.”

Asked if the upgrading of Anzalduas was a top priority for the City of McAllen, Darling said: “Absolutely, it is a top priority. A lot of what we are doing in the trade zone depends on having our bridge fully developed. We are always going to have some sort of maquila activity.”

China visit

McAllen EDC took a trade delegation to China in July, 2019. McAllen Mayor Jim Darling was in the party.

Mayor Darling is a key player in McAllen Economic Development Corporation’s trade visit to China next month. It will be the second time MEDC and Darling have visited China this year. The first trip took place in July.

“I will be on the China trip. In fact, I am speaking at the World Trade Association and doing a reception for the mayor of Shenzhen. It is the headquarters for CATL and BYD so it is an important manufacturing city.

BYD is a Chinese manufacturer of automobiles, battery-powered bicycles, buses, forklifts, rechargeable batteries, and trucks. Contemporary Amperex Technology, bbreviated as CATL, is a Chinese battery manufacturer and technology company.

“The potential is huge for us in China. They are very interested in the twin-plant concept, of having plants on the U.S, and Mexican side of the river. That is why we are taking the State of Tamaulipas with us. They went to Korea with us a few years back. This is the first time we will be going to China together.”