Cruz close to victory in effort to speed up construction/expansion of four international bridges

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz says he is close to victory in his efforts to speed up the issuance of permits for four key international bridge projects in South Texas. 

The four projects are: 1) expanding the existing World Trade Bridge in Laredo and constructing an additional eight lanes alongside it; 2) constructing a new bridge in Cameron County that would be used by passenger vehicles and pedestrians; 3) construction of a new bridge jointly by Webb County and the City of Laredo to support commercial truck operations; 4) construction of a new bridge in Maverick County, including Eagle Pass, for commerce into Mexico.

Sen. Cruz, pictured above, is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“What has happened is the Biden administration has put bureaucratic roadblocks in the way that have delayed these four projects unnecessarily,” Cruz told the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service.

Cruz pointed out that to build a new bridge anywhere in the state of Texas the operator has to go through the ordinary environmental reviews.

“But, you don’t need any special permits. However, to build a bridge that crosses an international border, that crosses over into Mexico, for example, under federal law you need a specific permit from the President. And that presidential permit is designed to assess foreign policy concerns.’

Cruz explained what the federal government used to do. “The president would grant the presidential permit conditional on the completion of the environmental review.”

However, he said, the Biden Administration reversed that.

“The State Department took the position that the President would not issue a presidential permit until after the environmental review was fully completed. A consequence of that is to delay every one of these four projects, potentially by several years.”

Cruz said all four projects are running into difficulty getting the financing for construction or expansion, “because the financing has been reluctant to be committed to before the presidential permit has been issued.”

Cruz said he is working “hand in hand” with the entire South Texas congressional delegation to go back to the way it was.

“We have bipartisan agreement on this. In particular, I lead with a letter Secretary of State Blinken, along with with Henry Cuellar, with Monica De La Cruz, with Vicente Gonzalez and Tony Gonzales. So two Democrats, two Republicans,” Cruz said.

“Also, along with John Cornyn. All of us in one unified voice, calling on the Administration to return to the previous policy of granting the Presidential permit conditional on the completion of the environmental review.”

Cruz said he introduced legislation in the Senate to expedite the State Department’s approval and the presidential permit for the four international bridges in question.

He said his legislation earned bipartisan support on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was the adopted as part of the Authorization Bill for the Department of State. 

“That happened last week. And I got the support of both Democrats and Republicans. I got the amendment adopted and subsequently the entire authorization for the Department of State has been added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that is before the Senate this week.”

Cruz said victory is now in sight. 

“We are not fully complete, the legislation has not yet been signed into law. But we have been able to build bipartisan support and move it forward substantially. I’m quite hopeful that within the next couple of weeks, it will be signed into law.”

Asked what the impact will be if the amendment makes it into law, Cruz said:

“If and when that happens it will have an enormous positive impact on South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley by increasing trade and commerce with Mexico. It will increase jobs in South Texas by reducing delay and transportation costs on our southern border. It will also decrease pollution. 

“Right now at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo you can sometimes see hundreds of 18-wheelers sitting there waiting to cross, sometimes for hours, spewing pollution into the atmosphere. By allowing that bridge to be expanded, with eight new lanes being built, it will substantially speed the transit of trucks. This in turn will reduce pollution, reduce costs, reduce delay times and increase economic growth, jobs and trade with Mexico.”

Asked if the four bridge operators are happy with his legislative efforts, Cruz said:

“We have been working closely with each of the bridge operators. We’ve also seen support from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, from the Texas Association of Business, the Laredo Motor Carriers Association and from the Border Trade Alliance. So much of this process has been building a bipartisan coalition of stakeholders, all unified behind the importance of speeding up the construction of, or expansion of, these bridges. The victory we earned last week is a big, big, big, victory for jobs in South Texas.”

It was put to Cruz that international bridges on the southwest border are becoming more important than ever due to the increased trade that near-shorting is producing. Cruz agreed.

“It is good for Texas farmers and ranchers because the agricultural trade going across our southern border is very significant. It is good for U.S. manufacturers, whether it’s auto manufacturers where significant parts in cars are assembled in Texas, significant parts are assembled in Mexico, sometimes a component will go back and forth across the border two and three times in the process of manufacturing a car or truck.

“And, on top of that, there they’re very significant foreign policy and national security benefits for the United States. As you noted, after the COVID pandemic people across the country are realizing the incredible jeopardy our nation is in by being so dependent on China and our supply chain. So, we are seeing very significant parts of the supply chain decoupling from China and much of that is going to Mexico, which is better for America but it’s also better for South Texas because the more trade and commerce that is pulling across the border, the better it is for South Texas.”

Asked why the Biden Administration became more bureaucratic when it came to issuing presidential permits for international bridges, Cruz said:

“There is not really a good answer. We have not been able to get a straight answer to that question. I’ve raised it repeatedly with the Department of State. I’ve raised it repeatedly with the White House. I’ve raised it repeatedly with the Department of Transportation. And no one has given a straight answer other than just some notional idea about the environment. 

“What I think happened is some bureaucrat in the bowels of the Department of State or the bowels of the White House who is committed to the Green New Deal decided to block everything in a misguided pursuit of environmental objectives.

“But one of the reasons we’ve been able to get such bipartisan unanimity on reversing this policy is that the Biden Administration’s delays do nothing to help the environment. Nothing in this legislation eliminates the environmental review that has to happen for any bridge you build in Texas, whether it’s across the border or not. Any new construction project has to undergo an environmental review and so this does not shortchange that process at all. 

“All it does is eliminate the bureaucratic roadblocks that the Biden administration had put in place. Not only did that bureaucratic delay not help the environment, it actively hurt the environment. Because, as I said, right now, the status quo is the trucks sitting there for hours spewing pollution into the atmosphere.”

Roundtable discussion

Sen. Cruz, along with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar will hold a roundtable and press conference with Texas lawmakers, Laredo city officials, and others to discuss bipartisan, bicameral efforts to expedite approval of four bridge projects along the Texas-Mexico border.

The roundtable discussion and press conference will focus on bipartisan, bicameral efforts to expedite approval of four bridge projects along the Texas-Mexico border.

It will be held Monday, July 24, 2023, with the roundtable discussion taking place at 9:30 a.m. and the press conference at 10:00 a.m. It will take place at World Trade Bridge, 11601 FM 1472, Laredo, TX 78045.

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