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BROWNSVILLE, Texas – U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela sent a letter to President-Elect Joe Biden urging him to include $6 billion in the next stimulus package to fund upgrades for land ports of entry infrastructure.

Vela’s concern about a lack of sufficient investment at international bridges on the southwest border is felt also by the Texas House of Representatives’s Committee on Transportation. 

That panel, led by state Rep. Terry Canales, has recommended that the Legislature and the Texas Department of Transportation should “consider prioritizing funding for border cities for port of entry expansion projects and for integration of new technologies to improve inefficiencies.”

U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela

Vela has six land ports of entry in his congressional district: the Alliance International Bridge, Brownsville and Matamoros International Bridge, The Free Trade International Bridge, Gateway International Bridge, Progreso International Bridge, and Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates. He said more federal funding would improve infrastructure and safety at the ports.

“As you prepare a stimulus package to help the economy of our nation recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you include $6 billion to fund upgrades to our land ports of entry (LPOE) infrastructure,” Vela wrote. 

“Funding for LPOEs in any upcoming stimulus package will be an important step in addressing your plans to direct federal resources to smart border enforcement efforts. Investing heavily in improving the aging infrastructure at our ports of entry is a necessary step for a safer and more prosperous America.” 

A copy of Vela’s letter to Biden is posted at the end of this story.

Meanwhile, at the state level, the House Committee on International Relations & Economic Development, was charged jointly with the House Committee on Transportation with studying land port of entries during the interim. 

The charge read: “Examine the infrastructure at international border ports of entry in Texas and identify transportation-related impediments to international trade that negatively impact the state. Make recommendations to reduce border wait times, facilitate economic growth, and expedite trade.”

In a report to the newly sworn-in Texas House of Representatives, the two committees pointed out just why land ports of entry at the Texas-Mexico are important to the national economy.

“Across the entire 1,255-mile Texas-Mexico border, Texas has 28 international bridges and border crossings. Mexico was the largest trading partner in 2019 for both the United States and Texas. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, in 2019, the United States traded almost $615 billion in goods ($257 billion in exports and $358 billion in imports) with Mexico,” the report stated.

“Also in 2019, Texas traded almost $213 billion in goods ($109 billion in exports and $104 billion in imports) with Mexico—more than four times what Texas traded with Canada, the state’s second- largest trading partner.141 Moreover, the 2018 passage of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) is expected to have a positive impact of $17.6 billion on Texas’s annual gross product and create 164,700 new jobs in the state.”

The report stated the impediments land ports of entry face. The list was presented to the two committees by the City of El Paso.

  1. The existing design of the POE lanes no longer provide for the effective and efficient flow of both pedestrian and commercial traffic. Significant upgrades to existing infrastructure are necessary to accommodate existing traffic and any future increase in traffic flow.
  2. The existing technology at the POE needs to be modernized so that there is access to real time data that can be shared with all governmental entities. No consistent method for the collection of crossings and wait-time data exists.
  3. Federal staffing levels need to be increased so that there is sufficient staffing to sustain operations at full capacity at federal facilities for the inspection and processing for crossings of both pedestrian and commercial traffic. 

4. Increased investment is needed to conduct non-invasive inspections (NII) screening technology to expedite inspections and reduce wait-times. NII systems allow Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers to process and inspect shipments without physically opening or unloading them. During peak times, the existing NII system processing capacity creates congestion and truck queueing inside CBP’s cargo lots. 

In a statement about his committee’s report to the Legislature, Canales said: “Texas’s transportation revenue is still not keeping pace with the state’s growth trajectory, with Texas expected to nearly double in population in 30 years,” Canales continued. “We must recognize that additional transportation infrastructure revenue is an essential component in ensuring a prosperous future for our children, and I will continue my efforts to support public policy that ensures that we are prepared for that future.”

Here is a copy of Rep. Vela’s letter to President-Elect Biden:

The Honorable Joseph Biden, Jr. 

President-Elect

Office of the President-Elect 1401 

Constitution Avenue, NW 

Washington, D.C. 20230

Dear President-Elect Biden:

As you prepare a stimulus package to help the economy of our nation recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, I urge you to add $6 billion to the Federal Building Funds for upgrades to our land ports of entry (LPOE) infrastructure.

As you know from your role in leading the recovery in 2009, building infrastructure is a critical pa.it of putting people back to work and reviving the economy. Upgrading the facilities at our LPOEs would not only bring good jobs to local communities and boost our country’s economy, but it would also strengthen our national security and facilitate trade and travel.

Mexico and Canada are two of our three largest trading partners, and every day, hundreds of thousands of commercial trucks, passenger vehicles, and pedestrians cross our LPOEs on the northern and southern borders. Many of our LPOEs, however, have longstanding infrastructure needs that impede both  security and commerce.

Funding for LPOEs in any upcoming stimulus package will be an important step in addressing your plans to direct federal resources to smart border enforcement efforts. Additionally, heavily investing in improving the aging infrastructure at our ports of entry is a necessary step for a safer and more prosperous America.

Sincerely,

Filemon Vela

Member of Congress


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