It is now full steam ahead for the Madero International Bridge after Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña received a thumbs up from the White House and the State Department.
O’Caña was sweating on the news because the presidential permit was due to lapse in July 2021. However, after months of top-level negotiations, the permit will stay valid well into the future.
“I am ecstatic. If I could do a cartwheel I would do a cartwheel. Unfortunately, I cannot do a cartwheel so I just have to have a smirk and a great time and give thanks to the Lord. I have to give thanks to God for opening this big, tremendous door,” O’Caña told the Rio Grande Guardian, in an exclusive interview.
O’Caña said he has known that the news coming out of Washington, D.C., was positive for the past two weeks. However, he said he could not broadcast it to the world because he had to first tell the mayor of Monterrey. He did this late last week on a visit to Mexico’s third largest city.
“It is the best news possible: the United States State Department and the White House has accepted our petition for the Madero Bridge project. They did not accept the extension part but they converted the current presidential permit by removing the expiration date of July 2021 and converting it to ‘live to construction’ status. So, now the presidential permit is back to where it was in 1978, live to construction, with no restrictions and no expiration in July 2021.”
Asked what “live to construction” means, O’Caña said: “It means that the City of Mission has to, in good faith, show that the Madero multi-modal international bridge is moving forward towards construction. As long as we show that good faith, then the presidential permit’s status is their for life.”
O’Caña said the current cost estimate is $133 million, for both the U.S. and Mexican sides of the bridge.
“Our plan is to have construction happening by 2025 and it would be a two-year project. So, it would open in 2027,” O’Caña said.
Asked why it was important for the mayor of Monterrey, Adrian de la Garza Santos, to know, O’Caña said: “He is the one helping me on the Mexican side. So much of the trade from the south of Mexico is channeled through Monterrey.”
If funding is obtained, and O’Caña is confident it will be, the Madero International Bridge will be built just upstream from Anzalduas International Bridge in Mission. As first reported in the Rio Grande Guardian, the new bridge will have freight and passenger rail, as well as passenger vehicles. There would be no truck traffic.
O’Caña said the key aspect to securing the permit is the project now has a degree of certainty about it.
“The uncertainty is gone. Now the sun is shining. In the next ten days the City of Mission will be entering into a contractual agreement with a company to conduct the environmental study, both in the United States and Mexico. And a traffic study in both countries for rail. It is classified now by the White House and the State Department as pre-construction. So, we are in the pre-construction phase.”
O’Caña said Mexico President Andrés Manuél López Obrador is fully supportive of the project.
“I can tell you that the president of Mexico has already been informed and he has already appointed a person as our contact for this project, at the federal level.”
The project is also popular at the state and municipal level, O’Caña explained.
“It is a federal project on the Mexican side but it already has the support of Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca. We have a letter of support on file. The mayor of Reynosa, Maki Ortiz has already given me a letter of support.”
The project is also popular in the Rio Grande Valley, O’Caña said, because it is important for the region.
“I have a letter from the Anzalduas Bridge Board supporting the bridge project. I must stress, we are not in the business of competing with the Anzalduas Bridge Board. And we are not in the business of supplanting, either. We want to supplement. We want the new bridge to be regional because we want to help the Hidalgo Bridge, and the Brownsville Bridge, and the Rio Grande City Bridge, help them ease their wait times.”
Asked who would own the Madero International Bridge, O’Caña said: “Right now, we have multiple options. The City of Mission will own the bridge if it is absolutely necessary. But, we really, really, would love to have a partnership with the Anzalduas Bridge Board. That was in the original agreement between the mayor of McAllen, the mayor of Hidalgo and myself.”
O’Caña said the need for the new bridge was on full display when he drove back from Monterrey.
“There was a 90-minute delay coming back from Monterrey. We have six lanes right now at Anzalduas Bridge but if we start opening the lanes for trucks the wait times will increase for passenger vehicles. But, if we work together we can ease congestion,” O’Caña said.
“Our feasibility study indicates that by 2036, all existing bridges from Brownsville to Laredo are going to be at maximum capacity. If we finish building by 2027 we will be in operation before 2036. We will ease the burden on the other bridges. The only thing that is going to be constant in the Valley is growth.”
High Speed Rail
Asked about the passenger rail component, O’Caña said: “I can see high speed rail coming into the Valley. We have already made contact with the organizations about bringing the high speed rail to Mission and on to Monterrey. Can you imagine the people in Monterrey, instead of flying, taking our high speed train? In 30 minutes they could be in Mission and in 90 minutes they could be in Houston.”
The thought of connecting Houston with Monterrey via rail excites O’Caña.
“Can you imagine an executive in Monterrey getting on a train at 8 in the morning and being in Houston at 10? Then going back at 3 in the afternoon? That is what I want to see.”
Asked about the $133 million price tag, O’Caña said: “That is for both sides, to build on both sides of the river. Right now I have five major investors on the U.S. side and five on the Mexican side. Not the same investors except for one who would be able to fund both sides for us. There is definitely financial interest in this project.
Asked if there was any chance of a Biden Administration undoing the agreement he as reached with the Trump White House, O’Caña said. “I was asked this when they called the election for Biden. For me, the White House is a symbol. Yes, it makes a difference who the president is. But, the City of Mission is willing to work with a red cap or a blue cap, or a purple cap, if we have an independent. We will work with whomever is in the White House. This is not about politics. This is about trade. And with trade, you have to keep moving.”
Besides, O’Caña said, if the Biden Administration keeps to its word and produces a major infrastructure bill, the Madero International Bridge could be a beneficiary.
“We would want to take advantage of any federal funding that is available,” O’Caña said.
Asked for any wrap-up remarks, O’Caña said: “Let the people know that we are blessed in the City of Mission. God is on our side. We are one city under God. It is a blessing for Mission and the whole of South Texas.”
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