City hopes to bring revenue with cold storage facility

HARLINGEN — Nearly 24 years after it opened, local leaders are counting on a cold storage facility to boost revenues at the Free Trade Bridge at Los Indios.

Today, city commissioners will consider a proposal to work with Cameron County and San Benito to build a $414,000 cold storage unit to help draw more truck traffic to the bridge.

The city, San Benito and Cameron County own the bridge, built at a cost of $40 million in 1992.

As part of an agreement, the city would fund $112,500 of the cost to build the 75-foot by 30-foot “walk-in cooler” on federal land on the bridge’s west side, City Manager Dan Serna said yesterday.

Serna said the project would allow trucks to use the cooler to store produce during customs inspections.

Inspections of trucks using the cooler would take two to four hours, County Administrator David Garcia said.

“It will really help us attract trucks that want to cross produce,” Mayor Chris Boswell said.

Serna said the proposal would build the bridge’s first cold storage facility.

“You have to provide the facilities that folks need to encourage folks to use the bridge,” Serna said.

The city continues to negotiate with Cameron County and San Benito to determine the cooler’s operation and maintenance.

For years, local leaders have tried to work to increase truck traffic at the bridge.

But the bridge continues to generate lower toll revenues than other Cameron County bridges, Garcia said.

Other international bridges in the Rio Grande Valley lead to Mexican cities such as Matamoros and Reynosa.

Once called “the bridge to nowhere,” the Free Trade Bridge leads to the small town of Lucio Blanco.

Revenues continued to fall last year.

In 2015, Garcia said, the bridge generated $1.6 million, down $128,784 from the year before.

Last year, 389,910 vehicles crossed the bridge, down 20,569.