McALLEN, RGV – Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas says he has the support of the Mexican government in his push to get another international bridge built for trucks and possibly cars, just a few miles upstream from the Anzalduas International Bridge.
Salinas said the bridge would be built in or around Madero. He said he is looking to get it constructed within the next three years so that it is part of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s legacy.
Salinas said he has to move fast because the presidential permit runs out in six years. He said it is unlikely that the federal government in Washington, D.C. will allow the permit to be renewed again. The mayor said the bridge could handle truck traffic exclusively or it could cater for trucks and cars.
In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Salinas said the City of Mission’s push to get a new bridge to handle vehicular traffic should not be confused with efforts being made to secure a new international rail bridge in Mission. He said the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and Kansas City Southern are working with him on the rail project.
“I have been to Mexico City three or four times now and they are very interested in getting this bridge built. We talked to the secretary who handles bridges and roads he is very interested in doing this with us,” Salinas said.
“Mexico wants this bridge because the president leaves office in three years. They want to get it built so the president has one bridge for his legacy. We are going to see if we can fast-track it.”
Salinas said he is due to go back to Mexico City in a couple of weeks. “They wanted me to go this coming week but I have to attend the Texas Municipal League meeting. I have never been to a TML meeting and they want me there. I have spent quite a bit of time with the secretary of bridges. I am supposed to go back there in a couple of weeks and show them all the information we have. He is very interested in doing this bridge. They really want to work with us. We might just do a bridge only for trucks, or we could do one for both, trucks and cars.”
Salinas made his comments after attending a meeting of the McAllen-Mission-Hidalgo International Bridge Board. He said that in executive session he brought up the subject of the City of McAllen participating in a feasibility study. “I hope McAllen joins in because we have had a great relationship with them. With Hidalgo, McAllen and Mission co-own the Anzalduas Bridge. I would like to see the same arrangement with this new bridge,” Salinas said.
Asked why the new bridge was necessary, Salinas pointed to the anticipated growth in truck traffic from Mexico in the upper Rio Grande Valley. He said it fits in well with efforts to build new loops in Hidalgo and Starr counties. And, he said, maquila plant managers in Reynosa want to be able to move their trucks north via the western side of the city, not just the east via the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.
“We have four and five hour waits with cars at Anzalduas. Rigo has these golf carts with water and ice. He gives the ice and water out to those waiting on the bridge for hours on end. People in Mexico are really frustrated with that. If we build another bridge next door we can relieve the pressure. Plus, we have all the trucks stuck at Pharr. Some of them have two-day waits. They badly need help with their truck traffic,” Salinas said.
The “Rigo” Salinas referenced is Rigo Villarreal, superintendent of bridges for McAllen.
“What we are talking about is not a major undertaking. It is going to be a small bridge. We already have the infrastructure in place from the bridge to the expressway via Military Highway. Mexico has its infrastructure in place also,” Salinas said.
Salinas then ran through the history of the presidential permit.
“Arnaldo Ramírez got us the permit in 1978 when he was mayor of Mission. We were never been able to get it done because of problems in Mexico. So, we decided to do a joint venture with McAllen, at Anzladuas. It has worked out very well for both of us,” Salinas said.
“Senator Phil Gram told us never to give up the Madero permit. So we kept it. McAllen agreed we could keep it. In essence they wanted me to give it up. But, we talked to them and Senator Gram talked to them and we all agreed the Madero permit had to stay. Thank God we kept it. We have got six more years with the permit. We have renewed it several times but Washington has told us we cannot renew it again. It has been there since 1978.”
Salinas said he hopes McAllen works with Mission on the Madero bridge project because they have been good partners on Anzalduas. However, he said if McAllen declines to participate he will forge ahead regardless.
“My position as mayor of Mission is to offer them the same deal with Madero as we have with Anzalduas. Keep it together. The three of us. If they do not want to be in it with us I am telling them I will pay for the study and we will continue on our own merry way. We are going to continue and build this,” Salinas said.
Salinas said the City of McAllen will have to make a decision soon on Madero. “If they decide they do not want to go in with us, we will do it ourselves. It will be 100 percent Mission. But, I do not think it is fair to have competition between each other. We have had a good relationship these past 15, 18 years, since I have been mayor. I hope it continues. This (bridge) is something we need real bad.”
Asked if funding would be an issue for the Madero International Bridge project, Salinas said: “I am sure Mexico has the money. They have a lot of investors over there. Together we can get it done. We are hoping to get it done inside three years.”
Asked about the international rail bridge project, Salinas said: “We have a rail permit and a vehicular permit. We are working on the rail permit with Kansas City Southern but they are waiting on some stuff they are working on in Mexico. We are already working on that and we would be more than glad to do that with McAllen if they want to do a joint venture with us. As a matter of fact, McAllen and went with us to talk to Kansas. The guy that has a handle on all this is Keith Patridge of McAllen EDC. He is heavily involved in this. Whenever he is ready and they are ready we will work it out with them.”