MISSION, Texas – When, soon after taking office, Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña started championing a new international bridge at Madero, just upstream from Anzalduas, he cut a solitary figure.
Today, he has the support of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, ten potential financing packages to choose from, an agreement to discuss right of way acquisition in Jim Hogg County, and a plan that would see freight and passenger rail moving from Mazatlán, Mexico all the way to Winnipeg, Canada, via Mission, Texas.
“I am elated at the support I am receiving from my colleagues on the Mission City Council. On a 4-0 vote they have given me the green light to move forward and develop a financial package,” O’Caña said, at the conclusion of Monday’s city council meeting.
The Madero International Bridge project was discussed in executive session. For this reason, O’Caña cannot go into specifics about the ten financial packages he outlined to his colleagues. He had expected the ten potential packages to be whittled down to three. That did not happen but the fact that his city council colleagues told him to keep pursing the project drives him forward.
“A year ago there was a lot of skepticism. I did not have a lot of support. We did not even know if we could hold on to our presidential permit. But, with that hurdle negotiated following my visit to the White House and the environmental studies well underway, it is full steam ahead. Today’s vote gives me all the motivation I need.”
O’Caña’s plan is for the Madero International Bridge to compliment Anzalduas International Bridge, with Anzalduas focusing on trucks, and Madero handling passenger vehicles, pedestrians, and freight and passenger rail.
Over the past year O’Caña has made numerous trips to Mexico to build up support. He said doors have been opened wherever he has gone.
“We have the support from all the key stakeholders in Mexico, from the president on down,” O’Caña said. “The latest visit was to go to Mazatlán and the state of Sinaloa. The reason we made that trip is we became a sister city with the City of Mazatlán.”
O’Caña said Mazatlán is now a key part of the project.
“There is now a proposed new rail system from Mexico through the United States to Canada will start at Mazatlán. The plan is to build a new state-of-the-art sea port at Mazatlán. I am pleased to say this rail line will now go through Mission. It will connect to all the key parts of the United States and Canada. That is a major jump for us.”
However, there are currently three gaps in the plan, O’Caña acknowledged.
“The first gap is Mazatlán to Durango. The Mexican authorities are going to take care of that. There is a gap from Reynosa to Mission, which we are going to take care of. And there is gap from Mission to Hebbronville, which we will take care of. Once we connect those three gaps, it will be a connection all the way to Canada.”
Asked about the Jim Hogg component, O’Caña said: “Jim Hogg County has already given us a legal document to be able to enter into Jim Hogg to begin to meet with citizens on right of way acquisition on the rail part to connect to Hebbronville.”
Asked if passenger rail was still part of the equation, O’Caña answered affirmatively. He said he has met with the incoming governor of Nuevo Leon, Samuel Garcia and he is on board.
“Governor-elect Garcia is talking also about a passenger train from Monterrey to San Antonio. We are working on getting it from Monterrey to Mission and Mission to San Antonio. Mission will be a direct shot to San Antonio.”
It was put to O’Caña that Laredo would also like to land the Monterrey-San Antonio passenger rail service. He responded: “The mayor of Laredo, Pete Saenz and I are good friends. We have mutual respect. We will both fight for our respective cities.”
As for the financing of the bridge, O’Caña said: “We had a company out of Houston that came in and did a presentation to the council on a financial package, funding at least 40 percent of the bridge. We are looking at that. Ideally, the council wants the project developers to fund 80 percent and the city 20 percent, either from grants or loans.”
Asked about the environmental studies, O’Caña said: “The five studies currently underway are now in their fourth month. We are asking for a progress report at the end of six months. It is looking good.”
Asked about the specifics of the charge given to him by his city council colleagues, O’Caña said:
“The authorization that was given to me today was to move forward with a financial package for the Madero Bridge. I identified ten proposed funding packages. The council said they were not ready to narrow it down to three because they wanted to see the advantages of each, package by package.
“Next week I am heading to San Antonio to visit with NADBank. They have a two-day session in San Antonio. NADBank is one of the ten options so I want to make contact with them and request an application. I am going to see if I can get on their agenda, either this one or the next one to show them the project in detail.”
There is a possibility that the City of McAllen could join the City of Mission in developing the Madero International Bridge. Asked about that, O’Caña said: “I have asked the McAllen Bridge Board to put me on the agenda to see if they are interested in co-financing the project and at what percent they want to come in. They will either say yes or give us the green light to go forward without them.”
O’Caña concluded the interview by looking back at the progress made over the last year.
“We are so much closer to it than we were last year. Think about it. The city council could have been told me to stop. But, they told me to move forward. Now, I think a decision on which funding package to go with will be made closer to when we get the environmental studies, either at 90 or 100 percent completed. We should have these done within the next 15 months. But, we are moving forward. We are still looking at 2025 for the start of construction, with the bridge open for business by 2027.”
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