MISSION, RGV – Last week, the Rio Grande Guardian reported that McAllen Economic Development Corporation likes a pilot project currently underway in Tijuana that allows customs officials from the U.S. and Mexico to work at the same inspection facility.

Keith Patridge, president of MEDC, said the project has great potential for Anzalduas International Bridge, which is co-owned by the cities of McAllen, Mission, Hidalgo and Granjeno.

Now, Rigo Villarreal, superintendent of bridges for the City of McAllen, says he is already talking to federal officials about starting a similar project at Anzalduas.

“I have already met with Mexican federal officials to discuss the proposal. They like it. Clearly, there is a lot of coordinating to do with many federal agencies on both sides of the border. Mayor Darling likes the idea. Our city manager likes the idea. It would save both countries a lot of money,” Villarreal said.

Jim Darling is the mayor of McAllen. Roy Rodriguez is McAllen’s city manager.

Asked to explain why it would save money to have customs officials from the U.S. and Mexico working under one roof, Villarreal said: “You would only need one inspection facility instead of two. The Mexican federal customs officers would either come to our inspection facility or we would go to theirs. You would inspect north and southbound at the same time. It would save millions and millions of dollars for both countries.”

Villarreal was interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian at a luncheon organized by the Mexican Consulate’s office in McAllen that took place at the Club of Cimarron in Mission. The keynote speaker was Carlos Pérez Verdia, Mexico’s under-secretary for North America. Villarreal also spoke at the event.

Villarreal said he is confident the pilot project at Otay Mesa International Bridge at Tijuana will be successful. “I know it is going to be effective. It is going to save a lot of money and a lot of time. It is going to improve trade. It is just going to be great.”

Villarreal also gave an update on border crossings at the two bridges he supervises. At the Hidalgo International Bridge there have been an additional 5,000 cars crossing southbound over the last year. At Anzalduas it has been an additional 3,000. At Hidalgo more than 18,000 more pedestrians have crossed the bridge southbound.

“Anzalduas is becoming more and more popular every month. The numbers keep going up, as compared to last year. While the number of visitors crossing on other bridges are going down ours are going up. Both Hidalgo and Anzalduas, the numbers are going up,” Villarreal said.

At Anzalduas, a $1 million project using capital improvement fund monies will allow empty trucks to cross southbound within the next couple of months. There are also plans for two more northbound lanes at Anzalduas.

“For the two northbound lanes, we have got the design about 85 percent complete. Hopefully, the construction of those two northbound lanes will start in the next two to three months. Instead of four lanes we are going to have six,” Villarreal said.

“At Hidalgo we have got about $3.5 million in construction that we are going to finish up in the next 30 days. We have a total increase of 25 cents which the bridge board decided to earmark directly for infrastructure so now we have 50 cents out of every toll that we are going to set aside for infrastructure. The state and the federal government likes that plan. It helps us get more federal and state money. We are showing them we have got some skin in the game.”

Editor’s Note: Click here to read the original story McAllen Economic Development Corporation’s keen interest in the pilot project currently underway at Otay Mesa International Bridge.

Editor’s Note: In the main image accompanying this story, McAllen Superintendent of Bridges Rigo Villarreal is pictured being interviewed by reporters at Hidalgo International Bridge.