Cold storage construction begins at Los Indios

HARLINGEN — After eight months of bureaucratic delays, construction on the cold storage facility at the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios has commenced.

Raudel Garza, manager and chief executive of the Harlingen Economic Development Corp., told board members yesterday construction began last week and would likely finish in four months.

“We’re looking at probably February before its open, but that’s right around the corner for us,” Garza said after the meeting.

The cold storage facility at the Los Indios bridge is an enhancement which may well make the crossing popular with shippers of Mexican produce. During secondary inspections, having a cold storage facility means when trucks are opened, a refrigerated space keeps perishable fruits and vegetables at cooler temperatures and in-creases shelf life.

Garza also told the board that interest in the Los Indios bridge crossing and its new cold storage facility was in evidence at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit 2017 three weeks ago in New Orleans.

“Obviously, Los Indios isn’t a well-known bridge, so just exposing people that there is another alternative to the Pharr bridge was a big deal for us,” Garza said after the meeting. “The feedback I get, because I wasn’t there, the feedback I got was that people are very interested in shipping their products through the Los Indios bridge.”

The Pharr bridge has become the premier crossing point for Mexican produce on the southern U.S. border, sur-passing Nogales, Arizona, in total number of produce shipments within the past two years.

The Los Indios bridge is jointly owned by the county, Harlingen and San Benito and revenues are split 50-25-25. The bridge now generates more than $2 million in tolls and fees each year, and a robust produce trade could add significantly to those revenues.

“The Pharr bridge had some issues recently that were diverting traffic to Los Indios and a lot of those folks who have been going through Los Indios because of that diversion have said, ‘Why aren’t we using this more of-ten?’” Garza said.

“There’s been that kind of activity, and once we’re done with the cold storage facility, then people will start saying ‘Oh, why don’t we go this way?’” he added. “We’re going to see an uptick in crossings at the Los Indios bridge because of that.”

Garza said the HEDC is helping the county try to find a stevedore company which will provide the workers and equipment to offload produce for inspection at the cold storage facility. Specialized companies commonly con-tract for this type of work at international crossings, he said.

“I think every bridge has some kind of agreement with different stevedoring companies, even at the ports there are different stevedoring companies that come in, and they will basically offload trucks at the different bridges,” Garza said.

“Once they offload them and put their products back in, they have a process in place for billing either the ship-per, the truck owner or the customer, whoever it may be who’s willing to pay for it,” he said.

Some Helpful Definitions:

COLD-STORAGE FACILITY — Allows trucks to open trailers into refrigerated space during inspections to keep fruits and vege-tables cold and extend shelf life.

STEVEDORE — A port or truck bay worker who handles the task of loading and unloading cargo.

PHARR BRIDGE — The leading port of entry for trucks hauling Mexican produce, surpassing Nogales, Arizona.

LOS INDIOS BRIDGE — An under-utilized border crossing which hopes to generate more traffic with a refrigerated in-spection facility.

Handy Definitions

COLD-STORAGE FACILITY — Allows trucks to open trailers into refrigerated space during inspections to keep fruits and vege-tables cold and extend shelf life.

STEVEDORE — A port or truck bay worker who handles the task of loading and unloading cargo.

PHARR BRIDGE — The leading port of entry for trucks hauling Mexican produce, surpassing Nogales, Arizona.

LOS INDIOS BRIDGE — An under-utilized border crossing which hopes to generate more traffic with a refrigerated in-spection facility.