Reyna: Border bridge wait times are still far too long

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McALLEN, RGV – Organizer Mario Reyna closed the Inno’ 2015 conference with an editorial comment.

The dean of business and technology at South Texas College said there are a lot of good things happening in the world of transportation logistics in the Rio Grande Valley. Transportation logistics was the theme of this year’s conference. However, there is one area that needs a lot of attention, he said.

“I think everything that is happening here in the Valley is fantastic. It’s dynamic. You see a lot of opportunity here for everybody. If there is only one area here, I think, where we can do some more it is in getting people across the bridge. Having people wait at the bridge to come across is not a benefit to us or to them,” Reyna said, in reference to Mexican visitors to the Valley.

Mario Reyna, dean of business & technology at South Texas College.
Mario Reyna, dean of business & technology at South Texas College.

“I have done this just to see how it feels. I go across into Reynosa (via the Hidalgo Bridge) and I get in the line and it takes hours walking. Every now and then I do go to the Pharr Bridge to see what the truck traffic looks like and it is hectic.”

Reyna said he attended a logistics and manufacturing conference in Laredo earlier in the week and the subject of border bridge wait times came up there. “They (Laredo leaders) are saying that they are doing a lot of things to try to improve getting the traffic across. Materials and people need to come across. The more they wait, it costs a lot of money. So, I know all of us that care about this are doing something about it,” Reyna added.

Mexican visitors have long complained about long wait times at Valley land ports of entry. They do not make a big scene, however, for fear that Customs and Border Protection will confiscate their visa. They would like Valley leaders to speak out more about it but few do. Among the exceptions are Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. They are often vocal on the need to improve border bridge wait times.

The general view of Mexican visitors is that the leaders of Valley cities that have international bridges do not speak out because their prime area of interest is bridge revenues and those come from vehicles and pedestrians going south. The experience for visitors traveling north is not of real concern in the Valley, many Mexican travelers believe.

Also, the border bridge wait times quoted in the media always seem to be underplayed. The figures quoted come from CBP and seem to bear little relation to the reality of a border crossing experience. If they hear on the radio that it will take 30 minutes to cross the Hidalgo International Bridge, for example, many motorists know they have to double that figure and that it will likely take an hour.

Motorists are also frustrated that while they wait a long time to cross the bridge at Hidalgo a number of lanes remain closed. This is because CBP has not scheduled enough staff to main all the booths.

Renovation in Laredo

Congressman Cuellar recently announced a $62 million renovation project for the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge in Laredo with the aim of greatly reducing traffic delays and wait times. Bridge II, as Lincoln-Juarez is known in Laredo, is to get a new bus inspection and passenger processing area, including individual bus stalls, pedestrian inspection lanes, a waiting area, restrooms and a canopy for loading and unloading buses. Construction is about to begin on the project. Cuellar secured the funds via the Fiscal Year 2014 Congressional Appropriations process. He is currently working with General Services Administration to also secure additional funding for renovations to Gateway to the Americas International Bridge in Laredo.

Instituto Tecnológico de Reynosa

Friday’s Inno’ 2015 Conference was held at STC’s manufacturing campus in south McAllen. Now in its third year, Inno’ is co-hosted by STC and the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Superiores (IIES) in Reynosa. Students from IIES and the Instituto Tecnológico de Reynosa attended the conference and will be doing course work on what they learned.

“We are very pleased to be here. It is a great conference,” said Esperanza Torres, a teacher at the Instituto Tecnológico de Reynosa. “We want to develop closer relations with South Texas College. We would like to see our students take some courses at STC and STC students to take some courses at our college. We particularly like the continuing education program at STC.”

Torres said the Instituto Tecnológico de Reynosa has about 3,200 students and offers programs in the fields of industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, architecture, business, computer science, petroleum engineering, civil engineering and megatronics. José Ángel Nieto, director of the Instituto Tecnológico de Reynosa, also attended the transportation innovation conference.

Conference line-up and agenda

Dr. Shirley Reed, president of STC, made the introduction and welcome, along with Juan Rosendo Martínez Gómez, president of the Instituto Internacional de Estudios Superiores.

Kevin Peek, of STC’s economics department, gave a presentation on the economic outlook for the region; Eduardo Campirano, port director and CEO of the Port of Brownsville, spoke about port innovation; and Pilar Rodriguez, executive director of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, spoke about regional mobility and transportation.

A panel discussion on transportation innovation featured Keith Patridge, president and CEO of McAllen Economic Development Corporation, Rose Benavidez, president of the Starr County Industrial Foundation, Julian Alvarez, president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, Agustin ‘Gus’ Garcia, executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, and Sergio Contreras, executive director of Pharr Economic Development Corporation.

The keynote speaker was Elizabeth Suarez, director of aviation for McAllen International Airport. Suarez spoke about aviation innovation.

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian will have more features from Inno’ 2015 in the coming days.

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