REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – The president of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company has urged TxDOT to add a new east-west corridor from Matamoros to Camargo to the Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan it is developing.
Sam Vale made his case at a stakeholders meeting the Texas Department of Transportation held recently in Reynosa. Bridge leaders from South Texas, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon were present.
“If you look at valid traffic studies, not made up just to promote an issue, you will find out that, if you look at Laredo, even if they double World Trade, even if they build 4 and 5, even if they get the road to Colombia, if all of that happens in the next four or five years, there is still going to be 1,500 trucks per day that don’t make it across,” Vale said.
“So a border corridor also makes it possible for them to use other facilities in a relatively short time and the important thing is it makes business grow. As business grows we all make money and have a better quality of life.”
Vale is a member of an advisory board that makes recommendations to TxDOT on border transportation issues. He was responding to similar remarks made by Leonel Cantú Robles, the secretary of economic development for Reynosa.
Timoteo “Tim” Juarez, Jr., manager for international trade and border planning for TxDOT, said he “totally agreed” with Vale’s analysis. Juarez chaired the meeting in Reynosa.
VIPs at the TxDOT meeting in Reynosa included Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña and Reynosa Mayor Maki Ortiz. Bridge officials and economic development leaders from Cameron County, Pharr, McAllen and Mission were also present.
Attendees watched a powerpoint presentation by TxDOT on the Texas-Mexico border region’s growth. From 1990 to 2017 the Texas-Mexico border region grew 67.46 percent, with 65.47 percent of the growth coming on the Texas side and 68.87 percent on the Mexican side.
The population grew by approximately 2.9 million within 60 miles of the border region since 1990, TxDOT reported, with much of the growth concentrated in metropolitan areas.
The 60-mile border region grew by approximately 2.9 million people from 1990 to 2017, TxDOT stated, with Mexico border municipios adding 1.7 million people and Texas border counties adding 1.2 million.
Approximately 7.3 million people live in counties located within 60 miles of the Texas-Mexico border, according to 2017 figures. The region has grown by approximately 67 percent since 1990.
Since 1990, Ciudad Juarez’s population has grown by 620,000, Hidalgo County by 470,000, Reynosa’s by 378,000, El Paso’s by 254,000, Matamoros’ by 229,000, Nuevo Laredo’s by 186,000, Cameron County’s by 164,000, and Webb County’s by 144,000.
Another statistic contained in TxDOT’s power point presentation showed that, in 2017, approximately three million lie in the counties located within the Rio Grande Valley/Tamaulipas area, with 1.4 million on the U.S.side and 1.6 million on the Mexican side.
Since 1990, the population grew by approximately 1.3 million in the Valley/Tamaulipas region. Hidalgo County’s population grew by 471,958, Reynosa’s by 378,459, Matamoros’ by 229,544, Cameron County’s by 164,126, Rio Bravo’s by 36,329, and Starr County’s by 23,303.
Since 1990, the regional population grew by 80 percent in the Valley/Tamaulipas region, with Reynosa’s increase up 134 percent, Hidalgo County’s by 122 percent, Matamoros’ by 76 percent, Cameron County’s by 63 percent, Starr County’s by 57 percent, and Zapata County’s by 52 percent.
As for trade, the number of northbound trucks increased by two million or 93 percent since 1996. The figure in 1996 was 2.2 million northbound trucks. In 2017 it was 4.2 million.
Interviewed after the meeting, Vale reiterated his point that Laredo, the largest inland port in North America, will not be able to cope with increased truck traffic caused by the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“Based on traffic studies that have been done by a qualified engineer, S&B Infrastructure, the City of Laredo can double the size of the World Trade Bridge, it can do bridges 4 and 5, or something similar, it can get the access roads they need to the Colombia crossing. But, even then, the growth under the USMCA would leave 1,500 trucks looking for a place to cross in a 24-hour period,” Vale told the Rio Grande Guardian.
Vale said if the Rio Grande Valley wants to be competitive “it will need a freight corridor that runs from Rio Grande City-Camargo on the south side and points east, all the way to Matamoros.”
Then, in future, the Valley could develop a parallel east-west line, from the coast all the way to Zapata, Vale argued.
“This would creating a major real estate boom between the roads. A corridor on both sides would see huge mobility improvements. That is what commerce needs in order to function.”
Vale said the the unification of the three metropolitan planning organizations in the Valley “is a step in the right direction.” He said he would like to see the region’s mobility authorities develop in the same way. “We need to come under one planning entity. We need a 20-year vision.”
Vale praised TxDOT for including representation from the four Mexican states that border Texas in the planning process for the Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan.
“We are working together because we want to keep the heart of the business going though Texas and having an outlet to Mexico. If Mexico does the infrastructure on the southern border of Mexico as well, it opens up all of Central America to the United States for development.”
Asked if Mexico has the funds to build an east-west corridor from Matamoros to Camargo, Vale said:
“If they don’t, we will find a way to fund it. You find a way, whether it is a toll road or a free road. Whatever it is, it has to be done. The two federal governments have choices to make and Texas is going to be on the front line. We are going to be going forward with economic development that creates jobs in our state. At the end of the day it is all about business. If business makes money, more businesses will come. Business does not come where there is no money.”
Don’t forget about Donna-Rio Bravo
At the same TxDOT meeting in Reynosa, Carlos Castillo, representing Rio Bravo, made an impassioned plea for the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge. He said he could not understand why his city’s bridge was not mentioned in any of the powerpoint presentations by TxDOT.
“We have an ongoing project on the border, the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge. We are expanding the bridge on both sides of the border. This will improve commercial traffic flow for the entire region,” Castillo told the Rio Grande Guardian, after the stakeholders meeting had concluded.
“We are told the expansion project will be finished by the end of next year. It is going to help the whole region. It is a very important project that people need to know about but I did not hear anything about it today,” Castillo complained.
Castillo’s criticism seemed to have an impact because as soon as the meeting concluded, TxDOT official Steve Decker rushed over to assure TXDOT does care about the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge.
In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Castillo said the expansion project at his city’s bridge will cost about $60 million. He pointed out that a groundbreaking ceremony was recently held on the Donna side of the bridge.
“At the moment we are just taking passenger vehicles but, maybe next year, we will start moving trucks. It is going to be a state of the art facility.”
Editor’s Note: The above podcast features the raw audio from the TXDOT meeting in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Most of the commentary was in Spanish.