Luis Bazan

PHARR, Texas – The director of the Pharr International Bridge says a second span for the port of entry is great news not only for his city but also the whole of the Rio Grande Valley.

News that Pharr had secured a presidential permit to expand the bridge was first revealed in the Rio Grande Guardian.

In a Zoom conversation with the Rio Grande Guardian, Luis Bazan said the Pharr Bridge Board plans are to have the second span constructed and open for business by 2023.

“We pride ourselves as being an extension or an arm of the economic development corporation. I am not just talking about Pharr economic development. I am talking about the region’s economic development,” Bazan said.

“As you know, McAllen has a very strong hold on foreign trade zones. They are big at recruiting maquiladoras. To be able to service them, to be able to provide what they have been longing for, for such a long time, it is a great selling point. It adds great value to them because we have been talking about investing big for faster trade, we have been talking about your bridge, your connection. So here we are finally getting to that.”

Bazan said the cost of the U.S. side of the second span, which would be 1.5 miles in length, could be around $35 million.

“Mexico has been working very diligently to ensure they have the money in place. They are very close to it. Now we have our presidential permit it puts us a step closer. Mexico will take care of their end,” Bazan said.

“There are different pockets of funding. We are on our way. The city can leverage a certain amount of money It is up to us to now find the rest of it.”

Bazan made a bold prediction on when the bridge will open.

“This project will be constructed and open to the trade by 2023. We plan to go to construction at the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. The process to build it will be about 15 to 16 months.”

Bazan said potentially doubling the throughput of trucks across the Pharr International Bridge will bring added value to numerous industries that rely on international trade.

“Right now, yes, we are servicing the maquila industry, automotive, technology, also oil and gas. That is one of our top ones, especially for exports. And, of course, produce. Produce is big in Pharr, crossing 65, 70 percent of the nation’s produce. But, we are starting to see these maquilas roll out construction materials, medical supplies.”

Bazan explained: “If they want to save on costs, this is the place to be, in Reynosa, on the outskirts of Reynosa. There are other projects coming along the way. To be able to service that would be our biggest goal.”

Asked how competitive the second span will make the Pharr bridge, in relation to other major land ports of entry, Bazan said:

“Fortunately, currently, we are the only full service commercial bridge in this area. But when you start looking elsewhere, El Paso, Laredo, that is where we want to be. I think this is going to give us that competitive advantage and position ourselves strategically to be able to take in that trade as comparable to both El Paso or Laredo.

“That is what we are going to see, if you want to talk competition, in the future, we could look at it that way, that we will be at that level, (similar) to those gigantic bridges that are crossing three or four times the traffic we are crossing.”

In time, the second span will allow for a doubling of trade, Bazan pointed out.

“With this expansion, if you think about it, and you analyze it, we are expanding by 100 percent. It is another four lanes. It is not to say we are going to be at 100 percent right away. It takes time to get there. But in the first year we are expecting anywhere from a 20 to 25 percent increase in trade, because we are going to be able to handle so much more.”

Constructing a second span is not the only big thing happening at the Pharr bridge, Bazan said, during the Zoom conversation.

“It goes beyond that. Once you put the whole spectrum together, once you put the whole thing in place where you have the expansion of the bridge, now you have the aduana, you have inroads coming in from Mexico to the United States that can connect to the aduana in Reynosa and then you have IBTC in the United States,” Bazan said.

IBTC stands for the International Bridge Trade Corridor.

“You have all these other highways, plus the enhancements inside the port. It is unprecedented what we are going to be able to do. There is no telling where we will be in the next few years. I think we can calculate it now but we might be in a better position in the next few years than what we anticipate because, again, the numbers are there. We have seen it.”

Backing up his claim, Bazan ran through some of the traffic counts.

“It has been evident throughout the pandemic that trade has continued to increase and we are a perfect example. If you look at our numbers for December, that has probably been one of our best months. We thought at September, at the end of the fiscal year, was our best month but, actually, December was our best month. If you look at our numbers we grew by over 12,556 vehicles putting us at 13.27 percent over from what we were in the previous year.

“If you looking at trucks alone we were at 57,000 trucks, this is just southbound. That puts us at 23.70 percent. Even cars went up. We haven’t seen an increase in cars in years, since the immigration crisis. And we are almost at four percent. And this is just southbound. We are waiting to get the northbound figures from CBP. That tells you why the need for the infrastructure, this second span bridge expansion is taking place.”

CBP stands for Customs and Border Protection.

Editor’s Note: The above news story and zoom is the first in a two-part series about the Pharr International Bridge. Part Two, focusing on fresh produce crossing the bridge, will be posted on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

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