LOS INDIOS — As gusts of 40 mph swept through the open warehouse facility here, unleashing havoc on hairstyles and tablecloths, speakers grabbed the symbolism to pronounce a new cold storage inspection facility as being blessed by winds of change.
The new facility at the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios will be used by federal inspectors to ensure produce from Mexico is free of agricultural pests, one of the procedures trucks carrying produce must complete before entering U.S. territory.
“This will transform our port of entry as we secure our nation and facilitate legitimate trade and travel with this project,” said Petra Horne, U.S. Customs and Border Protection port director for the Port of Brownsville.
“It will bring enormous impact not only to Los Indios, Brownsville, San Benito, Harlingen and local communities, but also to the United States,” she added.
The Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios will provide Mexican truckers with a legitimate alternative to the crowded Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which has its own cold storage inspection facility and a well-developed infrastructure on both sides of the border. Officials here hope the new facility will draw more traffic across the underutilized Los Indios bridge by speeding up wait times.
“One of the comments that was made was sometimes it’s a concern where there may be some competing interests here in the Valley,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. told the crowd. “I don’t look at it like that at all. All we’re trying to do is actually increase the size of the pie.
“Pharr’s been very successful in what they’re doing, and we just want to go ahead and piggyback on that and add to it for the entire region and the entire Valley,” Trevino added.
“We’re looking to them for advice and guidance and we’re hoping that we can make that pie bigger for the entire Valley,” Trevino said.
Yesterday morning’s kickoff ceremony was attended by about 200 people, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, local elected officials and representatives of the Mexican state government of Tamaulipas.
Such broad representation made evident the depth of support for the new inspection facility on both sides of the border.
“It’s a beautiful facility, and driving through here you can see how well-planned it is and how much room there is for expansion,” said San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez. “This is what can happen when the leadership of Cameron County comes together to do something for our county.”
“This complex here, this facility at the port of entry, is truly one of the great examples of regional cooperation,” said Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell. “This has been a facility that took 50 years to get built, but once it got built, it was built through the cooperation of stakeholders throughout the county … what we continue here today with this project is a new era of regional cooperation.”
Los Indios Mayor Rick Cavazos said the new inspection facility provided a lesson Washington would do well to study.
“This is a positive thing that happens when you work together regionally and we put our partisan politics aside and we simply get something done for the benefit of this country, for the benefit of our communities, or our people, for jobs,” Cavazos said. “And this is certainly a contrast to what we see on the national stage in Washington.”
The cold storage inspection facility is separate from another construction project at the Los Indios bridge, the Border Safety Inspection Facility which sits right beside it. That checkpoint, when complete, will allow Texas Department of Public Safety inspectors to ensure trucks arriving from Mexico meet U.S. highway safety standards.
The Los Indios Port of Entry opened in 1992 with the completion of the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios.
The crossing handles both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks.
Because of the length of the bridge and the rural location, there are very few pedestrians.
The bridge is owned jointly by Cameron County and the cities of Harlingen and San Benito.