Los Indios could take some truck traffic away from Pharr

LOS INDIOS — Development officials have no illusions about the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios displacing the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge when it comes to importing produce.

The Pharr crossing is the No. 1 port of entry for produce from Mexico, and accounts for about 60 percent of all U.S. produce from south of the border.

Infrastructure on both sides of the border is robust at the Pharr crossing, and distinctly lacking around Los Indios.

Still, some feel the huge produce traffic and occasional delays at Pharr could create an opening for a smaller cold storage inspection facility such as Los Indios since time is a critical factor in getting fresh fruits and vegetables to market.

“That gives us the opportunity to encourage produce companies and shippers to relocate to this area because we now have basically a full-service border station and CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) station,” said Raudel Garza, chief executive officer for the Harlingen Economic Development Corp. “They don’t have to go through another bridge to get the same service.”

The new border inspection facility at Los Indios will look at produce from Mexico to determine if the shipments have agricultural pests which could prove damaging to U.S. farmers.

“As a matter of fact, with the entomologists here on-site, they can probably get faster service here,” Garza said.

Garza says he is realistic about where the Free Trade Bridge at Los Indios stands versus other border crossings, even with the new produce inspection facility.

“I think Pharr has got such a big lead in that category it would be hard-pressed for anybody to unseat them,” Garza said. “They’ve got the infrastructure in terms of the brokers and the shippers, the logistics companies, that we don’t.

“On the Mexican side (at Los Indios), there isn’t both an import and an export lot, there’s just one,” he said. “So that’s a totally different infrastructure set up here than that location.”

Garza said the Los Indios bridge can serve as a complement to Pharr, which records around 600,000 trucks crossings both northbound and southbound every year.

“For those trucks that don’t necessarily want to wait in line at Pharr, they can come here within 35 minutes and actually cross the border a lot faster,” Garza said.

Pharr bridge by the numbers

30 — Billions of dollars worth of products crossing the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge north and south each year

580,000 — Number of northbound trucks crossing the Pharr bridge in 2014

1 — Where the Pharr bridge ranks for produce crossing into the United States

60 — Percentage of the total U.S. fresh produce from Mexico that crosses the Pharr bridge