Customs expands hours at bridge

BROWNSVILLE — Commercial trucks will experience shorter times at Veterans International Bridge thanks to a move by Mexican Customs to ex-tend its weekday hours of operation.

The new hours, announced Monday, are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, effectively immediately. Mexican Customs extended its hours of operation by three hours to bring them more in line with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which operates until midnight on week-days.

The “misalignment of resources” has long been a problem that has caused slowdowns at the port-of-entry that impede cross-border economic activity, according to a statement from U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela’s office.

The issue was high-lighted at an October Binational (BiNED) Economic Development meeting hosted by Vela and Homeland Security Secretary Alan Bersin, said the statement. BiNED’s mission is to create an economic “mega-region” along the U.S.-Mexico border with a focus on advanced manufacturing.

Vela, D-Brownsville, said the change in hours is a “significant step to improve commercial traffic on the border,” and thanked Mexican Cus-toms, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and the Matamoros maquiladora industry for their help in bringing it about.

Cameron County Judge Pete Sepulveda Jr. said Mexican Customs’ previous hours of operation, besides disrupting the flow of northbound commercial traffic, also stranded many Mexican trucks on the U.S. side, when they couldn’t get back to the bridge in time after delivering their cargoes.

“It works out a lot better for traffic flow, whether you’re going into the U.S. or going into Mexico,” he said. “It facilitates trade a lot more.”

Sepulveda, who was in charge of day-to-day bridge operations until about six years ago, said hours of operation haven’t always been an issue.

“The hours always matched,” he said. “It didn’t make any sense for the hours not to match. I’m not sure how they got discoordinated.”