MCALLEN, RGV – If the City of McAllen can secure approximately $25 million from the state or federal government it can proceed with plans to fully develop Anzalduas International Bridge as a port of entry for cargo.
McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez said around $52 million is needed to fully equip the bridge for truck traffic north and southbound. He said the city is ready to go to the bond market for around half the $52 million, provided the state or the federal government fronts the other half.
Rodriguez spoke about funding for Anzalduas at a recent McAllen Economic Development Corporation meeting.
“We continue to seek funding, both state and federal funding. We are getting real close, even though the (legislative) session is over. We are still hanging on by a little string, trying to see if we can get some funding from the state,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he is in discussions with state Rep. Terry Canales, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation.
“Terry Canales, here from Edinburg, is chairman of the Transportation Committee, a very, very important committee in the State of Texas. We are relying on him to help us. So, if you know Terry, give him a call when you leave here,” Rodriguez told the MEDC board of directors.
Rodriguez gave the Rio Grande Guardian an exclusive interview after the McAllen EDC board meeting.
“We need about $52 million in order to build everything we need for cargo, northbound and southbound,” Rodriguez said, referring to developing Anzalduas.
“Fifty-two million is a lot of money for a community of our size. So, we are really leaning on the federal government and the state legislature to help us. If we could fund half of that through the state or the federal government, we think we can come up with the difference.”
Rodriguez explained how the City of McAllen can come up with the difference.
“We will have to float bonds, revenue bonds, and then the truck traffic would actually help us pay for the revenue bonds. So that is what we are still working on. We continue to ask the legislature to make it a priority and ask the feds through a grant program.”
Asked what $52 million would buy, Rodriguez said:
“It would be almost all of what we call the vertical infrastructure, the actual buildings. The inspection facilities, CBP facilities, scales, parking, canopies, tolls, the whole nine yards that you usually see at a port of entry.”
Asked if Customs & Border Protection would agree to staff Anzalduas to the required extent, should the facilities for cargo trade be installed, Rodriguez said:
“Absolutely. They would have to approve our preliminary plan, which we have submitted to Washington. It is called the Donations Acceptance proposal. They have given their approval. So, yes, we are going to build what CBP wants.”
The City of McAllen’s consultants in Austin are McGuireWoods. At a recent workshop meeting, McAllen city commissioners expressed disappointment that the 86th Legislature did not approve funding for infrastructure at Anzalduas International Bridge. Kwame N. Walker and Holly B. Deshields of McGuireWoods told commissioners the recently concluded legislative session was not a good one for cities generally.
McAllen City Commissioner Omar Quintanilla asked if there was anything McAllen wanted that did get passed during the legislate session. McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez answered this question.
“We are still clinging to some hope on the bridge. But, that did not advance the way we were asking it be done, through the budget, instead of discretionary funds from TxDOT, which, there is still a chance that might happen,” Rodriguez said.
“If you look at some of the things that passed, and some of the funding, in our immediate area, it is really disappointing that there was not a higher level of energy on that bridge as a priority.
“We get hundreds of thousands of people use that bridge and we did not get funding and yet Edinburg Airport did. No offense to Edinburg.”
South Texas International Airport in Edinburg received $5 million in the new state budget. The City of Edinburg and Rep. Canales recently held a news conference to announce the news.
“The irony is Edinburg Airport is doing upgrades so that law enforcement personnel can use the airport when in fact they are already at McAllen,” said McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, at the workshop meeting. “You would think we would have had funding (for the international bridges) with USMCA (about to kick in).”
In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Rodriguez said: “We just wish the bridge had gotten a little bit more priority (from state lawmakers). It has such a big impact, not only on our region but on the entire state of Texas. This is not about competing with our neighbors. Once every couple of weeks you see a story that the Pharr Bridge has to adjust its hours because it has got so much truck traffic. We need another bridge that allows cargo to go north and south. That is what Anzalduas will be.”
Rodriguez said Rep. Canales is a very important player in the effort to secure funding for Anzalduas. “We are very lucky to have him here in the Rio Grande Valley. We are hoping that he can help us.”
Interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian, Canales said he was aware of the high priority the City of McAllen is giving Anzalduas International Bridge.
“We are working hand in hand, not only with Anzalduas Bridge, but the Pharr Bridge and all our inland ports to try to build the infrastructure to make sure we capitalize not only as a region but as a state on international trade. The Pharr International port of entry does almost $35 billion in produce trade and is the No. 1 land port for the export of oil and gas,” Canales said.
“And Anzalduas is a ground-breaking bridge. Having cargo trade going through the Anzalduas Bridge, there are some small hurdles. I call them small but in reality most people would think they are pretty big. But, working hand in hand with the City of McAllen and our partners in the legislature and public-private partners, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”
Asked about McAllen’s disappointment that the 86th Legislature did not do more to help fund infrastructure projects at Anzalduas, Canales said:
“No one is ever completely satisfied with how the Legislature goes, especially when it comes to appropriations matters. But, what I will tell you is, one of the biggest assets that the region received was the appointment of a chair of transportation from this region. I was honored to be appointed that chair and so I can tell you as the chair of transportation, that gives me greater access to TxDOT, greater access to how these projects are funded. I can tell you that, even if the project was not funded in the Legislature, it does not mean TXDOT does not have the money to do it.”
Canales added: “One of my favorite TXDOT quotes is, we have the money to do anything, just not everything.”