WESLACO, RGV – Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez testified before a hearing held by two Texas House panels on Tuesday.
They were the House Committees on Transportation and the House Committee on International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs.
The joint hearing was held at Knapp Conference Center.
The purpose of the joint hearing was to hear testimony regarding a joint interim charge given to the two panels by House Speaker Joe Straus. The charge was to:
“Review the current state of infrastructure at Texas’ international shipping ports and border ports of entry in Texas. Identify transportation-related impediments to international trade and estimate the impact of those challenges, including border wait times, on the state’s economy. Make recommendations for improvements to facilitate international trade and economic growth.”
In his testimony, Hernandez pointed out that the Pharr International Bridge is the 6th largest land port of entry in the U.S. and the 4th largest and most important on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Here are Mayor Hernandez’s prepared remarks:
I am Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, Mayor of Pharr, Texas.
I’d like to begin by first extending my appreciation to you for hosting this hearing down here in the Rio Grande Valley. I’d like to especially thank Rep. Armando Martinez for your efforts to promote transportation and infrastructure needs for our area. Thank you for your continued support of transportation and infrastructure projects that help boost commerce and trade for our region, for our state, and for our nation.
Good morning, Chairpersons Morrison and Anchia, committee members, and guests.
We’re the only regional full-service commercial bridge growing at an average of seven percent annually in imports and five percent annually in exports. Our daily commercial traffic averages 2,400 northbound trucks or imports and 2,100 southbound trucks or exports.
For the third consecutive year, we have been the No. 1 land port of entry for fresh fruits and vegetables. We are currently crossing over 60 percent of all the produce that is grown in Mexico, which is distributed across the United States. We must continue to facilitate our border crossings through crucial infrastructure improvements to our ports of entry, innovative partnerships that reduce wait time, and increased efficiency in customs and border inspections.
I am a pediatric surgeon by trade, and as a small business owner, I know that time is money. Delays in crossing goods and products through our international ports of entry result in increased travel times, higher cost, and the risk of lost product.
We have identified our need – reducing the time it takes to cross our border.
Currently, the actual crossing delay is 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the day of the week and other contributing factors. With all our new projects, our goal to reduce the crossing delays to 5 – 15 minutes for certified cargo and 30 minutes for all other cargo.
Our partners at the local, state, federal and international level can all contribute to developing solutions to address this need, and should include:
• Increased Funding for Infrastructure Improvements;
• Innovative Partnerships; and
• Investment in Infrastructure by our trade partner, Mexico.
Increased Funding for Infrastructure Improvements
Though international ports of entry are typically presumed to be primarily federal issues, state and local governments play an important role.
Texas is the largest trading partner to Mexico. In order to continue as the largest trading partner in a global economy, and stay competitive, we must see all types of ports as working partners, in order to create true interconnectivity.
We sincerely appreciate that you recognize the importance of the needs of our land ports, and that you have come to witness firsthand how critical it is for our state government to remain invested as partners along with those at the local, federal, and international levels.
Furthermore, we highly encourage you to appreciate the need for a direct corridor for commercial traffic from our ports of entry to our interstate, and we appreciate your consideration and support of funding for the International Border Trade Corridor (IBTC).
Another solution to addressing and reducing wait time at our bridge has been Pharr’s success in utilizing innovative mechanisms to fund projects, such as participating in the federal government’s Donation Acceptance Program through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. We have several projects in the works under this program which include the addition of two northbound commercial entry and exit lanes and booths; dock expansions; and an agriculture training center and laboratory.
Investment in Infrastructure by our trade partner, Mexico
The Reynosa Aduana (known as SAT or Mexico Customs) recently broke ground on their modernization project, which will completely reconfigure all their existing facilities and structures. They will increase their import entry lanes from 4 to 8, as well as their export lanes. They will also double the size of their inspections dry docks. The project is scheduled for completion in October 2018.
Chairpersons, committee members, and guests, I want to once again thank you for hosting this joint hearing at the source. I appreciate the opportunity to provide you with some insight regarding the local needs of our international port of entry and how it affects commerce and trade in Texas and beyond. I look forward to continuing the conversation and addressing any questions you may have regarding the Pharr International Bridge.