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PHARR, RGV – The president of Zuko Industrial Construction says the Rio Grande Valley needs to say a big thank you to Mexico for building the Mazatlán to Matamoros superhighway.

As a result of the highway’s construction, including the Baluarte Bridge, Pharr International Bridge has become the preferred route for trucking companies bringing fresh produce from Sinaloa to the eastern seaboard of the United States.

“Previously, truckers bringing fresh produce to the Midwest or the East Coast used Nogales, Arizona. Now they use Pharr,” said Andres Zuniga.

Andres Zuniga

“We need to thank Mexico. The Carretera Interoceánica (Interoceanic Highway) is a beautiful road with beautiful bridges. And the Baluarte Bridge that connects Durango with Sinaloa is an incredible engineering feat. The decision of Mexico to build the superhighway has made Pharr the No. 1 port for produce coming into the United States.”

Zuniga said Valley political and economic development leaders should thank Mexico for its decision to build an incredible game changer.

“We are all very grateful and we need to thank Mexico for that decision. It used to be that all the produce, because of the Sierra Madre mountains, had to cross at Nogales. Thanks to those bridges crossing the mountains, we have thousands of trailers coming daily into Pharr,” Zuniga said.

Zuniga made his comments at the conclusion of a groundbreaking ceremony for a new 25,000 square foot cold storage facility his company is building for A PORTUS Freight Forwarding Services in south Pharr. 

“We are building a cold storage facility to export beef into Mexico. This beef is coming from Canada and the United States and is being processed in Mexico where labor costs are a little lower. The meat will be exported all over the world. It is in great demand,” Zuniga said. 

Victor Perez

“The meat is only kept in the transfer facility for a few hours. It is then loaded onto Mexican trucks for the trip south. This is the first freezer facility of its type in Pharr. We will also have cold rooms for produce coming from Mexico and going north.”

The Baluarte Bridge is the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, standing 1,320 feet above the Baluarte River. Part of federal highway 40, it connects the northwestern Mexican states of Durango and Sinaloa and is the highest bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

Pharr Bridge Director Luis Bazan said the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge has become the largest land port for fruits and vegetables in the nation, surpassing Nogales, Arizona as the leading port of entry for Mexican produce. 

Currently, the bridge crosses more than 60 percent of all the fresh produce coming from Mexico through Texas land ports of entry.

“The Pharr International Bridge has forged strong partnerships on both sides of the border with distributors, growers, and importers, to ensure that we are meeting the demands of the industry,” Bazan said.

“There is no slowing down for us. In the next three to four years we are expecting to grow significantly. That is why it is important that we keep investing, planning, and working with all our partners as we continue to expand our opportunities.”

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez

Zuniga started his construction company 15 years ago. He changed the name to Zuko three years ago. Asked if he could keep up with the demand for more cold storage facilities, Zuniga said: “The Valley does need a lot more warehousing. At the moment we are keeping up with demand but we are seeing a lot of interest. There is so much demand, some want to buy some want to lease. With our business, we concentrate on cold storage.”

Zuniga said Pharr is the ideal location for his company. “With its proximity to the international bridge and access to major thoroughfares, we have seen our company grow and are excited to see what the future holds as we lay down roots.”

Zuniga said he would like to thank the City of Pharr administration for being pro-business. 

“Since Mayor Hernandez and the new administration came in, we have seen a turn for the better, particularly in the south of Pharr. They are building these industrial parks. They are putting the infrastructure in place. I am very thankful. Large companies are coming, thanks to the administration, offering a lot of employment.”

Victor Perez, executive director of Pharr Economic Development Corporation, was present at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“We have a great partnership with A PORTUS and we are excited to see their business growing and prospering in Pharr,” Perez said.

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said his administration is pleased to be helping the international trade community because more jobs leads to a stronger local economy.

“Our bridge is great for the region. The shortest route between two points is a straight line. The trucking companies and the logistics companies see the Pharr International Bridge as a straight line to the Mid West and the East Coast. Shortest route, straight line,” Hernandez said.

“Also, their words not mine, we are by far the friendliest city and the easiest to work with.”

Hernandez ran through some of the infrastructure projects underway to help facilitate even more international trade.

“Mexico knows there are many ports of entry but there is only one true port that benefits them economically and benefits their customers. That is the Pharr Bridge. They have invested over $90 million on the south side of Pharr to update their port of entry, doubling their capacity,” Hernandez said.

“On our side of the bridge we are investing $20 million. We also have TxDOT strengthening Military Highway, laying a concrete base for the trucks, so it is a true overweight corridor. We also have the Expressway 281/83 exchange, a $200 million project, to facilitate traffic. And we have IBTC, which will connect Military Highway to the expressway for commerce, to get trucks off our downtown.”

Asked how long the International Bridge Trade Corridor would take to be built, Hernandez said: “The environmental studies should be done by 2020 and we are assured by TxDOT that it will be funded shortly after that.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows the Baluarte Bicentennial Bridge, the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, which connects the northwestern Mexican states of Durango and Sinaloa. Photo credit: Reuters.

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