MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling says he is hopeful Anzalduas International Bridge will be able to handle fully-loaded trucks going north and south bound within the next few years.

Darling gave an update on infrastructure improvements at the ten-years-old port of entry during his monthly report to the McAllen Economic Development Corporation’s board of directors.

“I do not want to steal Juan’s thunder but we have authorized the engineering to be done on the Anzalduas Bridge,” Darling told MEDC.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling

“We are going to take funds from the development corporation to do that. We are very excited about starting that bridge construction, hopefully within 18 months or sooner. We are making arrangements for financing the freight portion of Anzalduas Bridge, which we think will be welcomed by the maquiladora industry.”

The person Darling did not want to steal thunder from was Juan Olaguibel, director of bridge operations for the City of McAllen. Olaguibel also spoke at the MEDC board meeting. 

Although based in Mission, Anzalduas International Bridge is co-owned by the cities of McAllen, Mission and Granjeno. It officially opened in December 2009 and started taking empty trucks in 2016.

Interviewed after the meeting, Darling told the Rio Grande Guardian:

“We are going to go ahead and fund the engineering study to get it rolling, right now. Before we were kind of waiting for federal money. By this time next year we will hopefully be looking at going out to construction.”

Asked how much the engineering study would cost, Darling said three or four million dollars.

“Right now we are expanding two more lanes for passenger vehicles. But the engineering study is being done with a view to moving freight on the bridge, north and south bound, that is significant,” Darling said.

“We have met with our concessioners on the Mexican side. They are ready to gear up, they are anxious. They make their money from trucks going north. We make ours with trucks going south. We have to put more facilities in place for northbound trucks.”

Darling said maquiladora plant operators on the western side of Reynosa will be particularly pleased to see Anzalduas upgraded to a fully functioning cargo port. He pointed out that many of their truck drivers are currently having to use Pharr International Bridge on the east side of Reynosa and this port of entry gets very busy.

“CBP has accepted our DAP application, which is good news. We met with GSA last week. We are anxious to get that done,” Darling said.

CBP stands for Customs & Border Protection. DAP stands for Donations Acceptance Program. DAP enables CBP to accept donations of real property, personal property (including monetary donations) and non-personal services from public and private sector entities in support of CBP operations.

Asked how quickly the whole project would take, Darling said: “I would say two years. I am optimistic. We have already done the preliminaries. One of the things I am going to talk about with the engineering company we hire is, you better get this done.”

Olaguibel’s perspective

Juan Olaguibel, director of bridge operations for the City of McAllen, also spoke about developing Anzalduas International Bridge at the McAllen EDC board meeting.

“We have a company to expand the Anzalduas lanes to six lanes. We currently have four lanes, we are adding two additional lanes. That company is already mobilized. The project is a $2.8 million project. It is about a 200-working day project. So, we are looking at seeing the completion of that project sometime around February,” Olaguibel said. 

Olaguibel also gave an update on border bridge crossings for the two ports of entry operated by the City McAllen. He said that for the month of August, vehicular crossings at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge were down 15 percent, as compared to the same month last year. There were 197,990 crossings, he said. As for Anzalduas, he said there had been a two percent increase in crossings, with 8,097 vehicles using the bridge.

Olaguibel attributed the decline to the current migration situation. “The only difference this year to last year is the asylum seekers,” Olaguibel said. “That is the big challenge we have for the bridges and the wait times.”

CBP has been operating a road block in the middle of international bridges on the southwest border in order to stop asylum seekers from setting foot on U.S. soil. This has impeded the flow of commercial and passenger traffic.

Olaguibel said the City of McAllen has been working “very closely” with CBP to improve border bridge wait times.

“They open every single lane in the morning, not a specific time but usually at 7 or 7:30, for an hour or two. They bring down the line to a zero wait time, and then they do it again in the afternoon, usually about 4 or 4:30 to about 6. The strategy has been working.”

Olaguibel said as soon as people start “catching on” to the fact that border bridge waits times at Hidalgo-Reynosa have been reduced, more people will start using the bridge again.