LAREDO, Texas – Topics such as roads, passenger rail, NAFTA, freight rail, and international trade were shared during the TEX-21 regional meeting and I-35 Corridor Task Force, Thursday and Friday in Laredo.
David A. Dean, President & CEO of Dean International, Inc., explained that since Texas produces about 40 to 50 of the needed jobs in the United States, “we are the envy of all the rest of the United States”.
He felt proud of the results.
“We expect to renew the commitment to support trade incoming through the I-35 corridor, from the Rio Grande north to the Red River in Texas, and along the border and into México,” Dean said. “It was very refreshing, getting to know political realities and economic needs for this region.”
He highlighted the I-35 Corridor as the economic engine of Texas.
“Why would you kill the goose that makes the golden egg? We need to stimulate it to do more, not discourage it to do less,” he said.
TEX-21 is a collective effort to improve the transportation infrastructure in the State of Texas and Oklahoma, according to a brochure delivered during the event.
“It was a very successful meeting, primarily focusing on transportation, transportation needs and challenges, but also the opportunities that we have,” Pete Saenz, City of Laredo Mayor, said. “The main thing is to make the entire system more efficient, productive and profitable for everyone.”
Saenz explained Laredo is an essential land port to the entire transportation and commerce industry.
“We invite people to come down and see what we have and, we all can learn from one another’s ideas,” he explained.
Representatives from Wise County, San Antonio, Dallas, Pharr, Corpus Christi, Webb County, Nuevo Laredo and Laredo participated during the two-day event.
Tano Tijerina, Webb County Judge, said the port needs to be ready for what is expected five years from now.
“Right now we have a population of 260,000 and in five years we expect a 35 percent increase in traffic,” Tijerina mentioned. “We’re all fighting for our areas, but it is a great joy to work together.”
Pete Alvarez, representative from Texas Department of Transportation in Laredo revealed amounts that are being invested to improve the roads around Laredo.
For example, he said that for FM 1472, TxDOT has invested $12.9 million. He said they hope one day that the road (known as Mines Road) will be a Freeway road. Also, he noted that on U.S. 59 (which will become I-69) the budget that has been applied is of around $75.4 million; while in the Clark Boulevard/Railroad project, the amount applied is of $97.9 million.
Alvarez also mentioned the idea to have additional passing lanes between Del Rio and Eagle Pass.
Other participants were Rolando Ortiz from Killam Development who expressed the need to “keep an eye in the energy and gas reforms in México.”
Tim Kleinschmidt, General Counsel for Texas Department of Agriculture, expressed that “we truly are a global trade power.”
Steven McQuagge, of the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement for the Texas Department of Public Safety, explained that 42 percent of the bus crossing traffic from México to the United States, crosses through Laredo.
Ivan Jaime, Public Affairs representative for Union Pacific, said truck companies like this model of moving their cargo through train, and they are doing their best to improve service without affecting the cities.
“We want to implement automatic railroad switches, and I am an advocate for overpasses because the rail-line won’t go outside the cities,” Jaime explained.
And while Mark Frisbie, Director/City Engineer for Transportation & Capital Improvements in San Antonio, gave details about a high-speed rail between Laredo to DFW, Jaime said Union Pacific will continue with freight cargo only.
Jesse Hereford, Director of Public Affairs for North American Development Bank, gave the last speech, and explained that they take very seriously the environmental impact of any project looking for its funds.
“But if everything goes well, then we are here for both sides of the border,” Hereford said.