Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cortez: Now let's get trucks rolling across Anzalduas bridge

Cortez: Now let's get trucks rolling across Anzalduas bridge

(Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor):McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez speaks at the official opening of Anzalduas International Bridge on Monday.

REYNOSA, Jan. 12 - In a speech at the official opening of Anzalduas Bridge on Monday, McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez stressed the importance of allowing commercial trucks to use America’s newest international bridge.

Under a presidential permit, cargo traffic is not permitted to use Anzalduas until the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge averages 15,000 northbound commercial vehicles per week, or until 2015. Currently, the bridge averages about 9,000. The City of Pharr depends heavily on bridge fees.

Cortez said it makes no sense to under-utilize the Anzalduas Bridge. He hinted at a unified bridge system that could see revenues collected from trucks crossing the international bridges of the Rio Grande Valley or at least Hidalgo County pooled together and distributed equitably.

“Now we have this valuable asset, let us not waste it by under-utilizing it. For us to be able to compete in this global economy our region needs not just one bridge but a system of bridges so that we can become the most efficient region for companies to relocate. An efficient system of legal ports of entries is essential to us to continue to attract new companies to our region,” Cortez said.

“Let us not waste our investment by not allowing commercial truck traffic to cross on this bridge. Commercial truck congestion has long been a key obstacle in developing efficient trade.”

Anzalduas International Bridge has only been open since mid-December. In his speech, Cortez said that companies and customs agents are already “begging” that the Anzalduas bridge board at least allow an empty truck trailer to cross the bridge.

McAllen banker Carlos Garza chairs the McAllen International Toll Bridge Board. Speaking immediately after the opening ceremony, Garza said it is not a forgone conclusion that allowing trucks to use Anzalduas will inevitably hurt Pharr.

“If Pharr did lose out it would only be short lived and temporary. We need to think not about how we cut the pie but how we grow the pie. If we made this a bridge system and make it easier to cross, we all benefit.” Garza said.

Garza said it is likely that Pharr will always be the bridge for hazardous cargo and agricultural products. He also urged the Mexican government to use its political muscle to allow commercial truck traffic on Anzalduas.

After the official ceremony concluded the City of McAllen hosted a luncheon for U.S. and Mexican dignitaries at the McAllen Convention Center. At that event, former McAllen Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Mike Allen reminded the Guardian that the original idea for a bridge at Anzalduas came about because of the need to get trucks moving more quickly and cheaply to and from the maquiladoras in Reynosa.

“We are competing with China right now so we have to reduce costs. The key thing for our community is to have multiple crossing points, in Donna, in Pharr, in McAllen, everywhere. That is what helps business,” Allen said.

Pat Townsend, president and CEO of Mission Economic Development Authority, told the Guardian that he had sympathy for Pharr elected officials because their first responsibility is to their voters and taxpayers. “There is only so far you can go in being Valley-minded or Metro-minded when you have a responsibility to the taxpayers and the voters who elected you,” Townsend said. “We have to make sure there is no negative impact on the taxpayers and the general treasury of Pharr. Tell me how you do that?”

Townsend said an improvement in the general economy would help because that would mean more trade with Mexico.

Allen first proposed a bridge in the Mission area when he went down to Mexico City with commercial real estate developer Mike Blum in 1993.

“My thought was economic development but we also knew it would open up a retail gateway into the interior of Mexico. At that time, Reynosa was not as big as it is now,” Allen said.

“I think you are going to be very surprised. I think you are going to have thousands more people crossing that bridge than you planned for. Mexicans will come because it is easy, because they do not face any danger going through Reynosa and they can shop and go. From where I live I can be in Monterrey in an hour and 45 minutes.”

Allen also predicted that a much larger number of Mexican nationals from Monterrey would buy second homes in the Valley because Anzalduas International Bridge makes it easier to get to the region. “Just like we go to New Mexico or Colorado, the Mexicans will have second homes here and from here they can go anywhere in the country,” he said. He also predicted even more export opportunities for retail stores in the Valley. “Downtown, retail stores like Sears and Penny’s are big exporters. People do not think about that,” he said.

Garza agreed with Allen’s analysis about more Mexican nationals visiting the Valley because of the new bridge. “We hope it will not just change the Monterrey traffic. The real key is how do we change the travel patterns of people in Central Mexico who maybe before used other bridges and maybe went on to San Antonio to make this region their choice and their place to come and shop and vacation and stay. To me, that is the real goal and that is where the real benefit will be realized,” Garza said.

Cortez said the new bridge could be viewed as a symbol of the “very strong” relationship that exists between the United States and Mexico. “It is an invitation that communicates ‘come to our home, you are welcome.’ It is an invitation to share and exchange, art, music, food, culture. It is an invitation that says let us do business today,” Cortez said.

Anzalduas International Bridge Project Fact Sheet

Anzalduas International Bridge Project Fact Sheet

(Photo: RGG/Steve Taylor) Mexican President Felipe Calderón shakes hands with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk after unveiling a plaque at the new Anzalduas International Bridge on Monday. 

REYNOSA, Jan. 12 - The City of McAllen has issued a Fact Sheet on the Anzalduas International Bridge Project.
Here it is:
• Bridge is located in Mission, Texas south of Military Highway and Bryan Road. Crossing is three miles west of the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, off of Military Highway and Anzalduas Highway (FM 396).

• Anzalduas is the closest international crossing to Mexico City and Monterrey. Route will reduce travel time to Monterrey by 30-45 minutes.

• Anzalduas International Bridge has four entrance lanes, including a SENTRI Lane in the United States. Bridge span is 3.2 miles (5.1 KM) from port to port and features 4 lanes, two safety bump-out spaces, and a pedestrian walkway. Lanes elevated to preserve nearby U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

• Anzalduas is a joint public project between the cities of McAllen, Mission, Hidalgo and Granjeno, TxDOT, the federal government (GSA) and the Republic of Mexico worth over $100 million dollars.

• In Texas, the Anzalduas International Bridge connects to the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone, where more than 410 companies are based; and the Sharyland Plantation, a 6,000 acre residential, industrial and retail development.

• Dozens of multi-national corporations are located in state of the art industrial areas near Anzalduas’ entry in west Reynosa, MX. The companies include: Nokia, Matsushita, Black and Decker, Fujitsu, Seimens, Corning, TRW and Symbol Technologies

• Anzalduas International Bridge hours of operation: 6 am to 10 pm, daily

Time Line:
1992-1998 Preliminary design and site location studies by Halff and Associates

1994 Wilbur Smith Associates complete traffic study

1994-1998 Review of preliminary application for U.S. Permit by U.S. federal agencies

1995 Four party agreement with federal agencies for land use at site

July 1999 U.S. Presidential Permit issued by President Clinton

Feb 2001 Initial exchange of diplomatic notes with Mexico

Fall 2003 Approval by federal agencies of construction plans

Fall 2007 June 2007, bridge groundbreaking ceremony

Fall of 2009 Anzalduas International Bridge Completed

Anzalduas Bridge Board Summary of Costs from 2007 to 2009:
Bridge Contract to Williams Bros - $28,713, 014

Toll Plaza Building & Landscaping - $3,078,014

Roadways, Drainage & Site Improvements - $3,961,122

Water, Sanitary Sewer Lines - $2,296,078

Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment - $909,011

Electrical Utilities & Lighting - $1,543,206

All other owner’s expense - $2,796,171

Grand Total - $43,296,616

Reynosa, McAllen celebrate new link

Reynosa, McAllen celebrate new link
By Lynn Brezosky
Express-News REYNOSA, Mexico —

The first new Southern border crossing to open in a decade was inaugurated Monday with plenty of pomp and a few polite laments about a process that dragged on nearly 18 years.

The 3.2-mile Anzaldúas International Bridge, crossing rural fields and the Rio Grande, is the second bridge to connect the Reynosa and McAllen areas. The new route promises to open the western end of the Rio Grande Valley to one of Mexico's busiest factory hubs, bypassing downtown Reynosa to cut travel time to the Mexican industrial city of Monterrey by half an hour.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón made a dramatic helicopter arrival on the Mexican side, joining U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk in a coordinated march of U.S. and Mexican officials toward a dais of dignitaries atop the span. At least 1,000 people attended.

“This bridge is more than a link between Mexico and America, between north and south. It is also a potent symbol of our connectiveness,” Kirk said. “You all knew that a new crossing would bring benefits to this entire region, and those benefits begin today.”

Calderón said the bridge was part of a new future for Mexico's northern border and for all of the country.

“It signifies jobs,” he said. “It signifies competitiveness.”

Planning for the bridge started in 1992. President Bill Clinton signed a presidential permit in 1999, an exchange of diplomatic notes came in 2001 and ground was broken in 2007, with the two sides contributing about $100 million for land acquisition and construction costs.

The bridge opened to pedestrians and small vehicle traffic Dec. 15 but does not yet have the permits needed for commercial traffic.

Juan Molinar Horcasitas, a Mexican trade official, said the bridge's “green” construction — it is largely made of recycled materials — made it “not just a bridge between two nations but between the past and the future.”

Along with the addition and expansion of other border crossings, he said, Anzaldúas will help establish Mexico as the “logistical platform” for North America.

It is a long crossing, running past a flood control levee that functions as a border barrier in Hidalgo County and over a no man's land of flood plain along the ribbon of the Rio Grande. South of the river comes another mile or so of rural Mexican dwellings, grazing goats and finally Mexican customs officials.

Officials on both sides say the need for new ports of entry on the border is clear. One million vehicles — and commerce amounting to $1 billion — cross it each day. Mexico is the No. 1 trade partner of 22 states of the union. Some 60 percent of Mexican exports enter the U.S. through the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which fronts the Texas border from Brownsville to the eastern end of Laredo.

Border cities fight intensely to be the site of new international bridges in hopes of landing stopover business, factories, and a housing market for managers and workers. The last new crossing to open was in Laredo in 2000.

“It takes us 18 years on average between when both governments agree on something and we reach this stage,” Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Flores said.

“We need a new procedure, a more adequate standard, a shorter time of formalities.”

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