Storage could solve bridge problems

HARLINGEN — Area leaders are closer to bringing a cold storage unit to the Free Trade Bridge as part a push to drive up toll revenues.

Last night, city commissioners approved an agreement with Cameron County and San Benito to share costs of about $414,000.

As part of the 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 at Los Indios.

A cold storage unit is expected to help boost truck traffic at the bridge that continues to generate lower toll revenues than other Cameron County bridges.

Raudel Garza, chief executive officer of the Harlingen Economic Development Corporation, told city commissioners the bridge needs a cold storage unit to draw produce trucks.

“Because of the lack of amenities, a lot of companies don’t use the bridge very much,” Garza said.

A cold storage unit would help preserve produce during customs inspections that could take two to four hours.

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

So far, Cameron County commissioners have approved the agreement.

Next, San Benito city commissioners will consider its approval.

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

The bridge’s toll revenues continued to fall last year.

In 2015, the bridge generated $1.6 million, down $128,784 from the year before. Last year, 389,910 vehicles crossed the bridge, down 20,569.