HARLINGEN — More than 25 years after it opened, there’s a new plan to promote the Free Trade Bridge.
This past week, Harlingen city commissioners approved a $122,064 marketing plan aimed at boosting toll revenues at the bridge in Los Indios.
“We expect crossings will increase,” City Manager Dan Serna said.
Harlingen, San Benito, Brownsville and Cameron County are working with Entravision Communications to launch the marketing plan, which focuses on the Free Trade Bridge and the Brownsville-area bridges Veterans International and Gateway International.
Under the program, the cities of Harlingen, San Benito and Brownsville will each pay $15,253 while Cameron County will pay $30,516.
In Harlingen, the city plans to tap into its bridge revenues estimated at about $562,000 to fund its share of the program.
Meanwhile, San Benito officials also plan to dip into their bridge revenues to fund their part, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa said.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to promote all of our bridges,” De La Rosa said, adding city commissioners have yet to consider approving the marketing plan.
The plan will target 50 percent of its efforts to promote the Free Trade Bridge while aiming 25 percent at each of the Brownsville-area bridges.
Serna said the Los Indios bridge offers truck traffic a significantly shorter waiting period.
What’s the plan?
As part of the marketing program, Entravision, the Rio Grande Valley’s top media group, will advertise on TV networks Univision and UniMas as well as the FM radio stations La Tricolor 99.5 and La Suavesita 101.1.
The plan will use Spanish-language television and radio broadcasts to reach a projected 94 percent of adults 18 years and older, targeting 20 percent of consumers and 80 percent commercial truck traffic.
The company will run 1,470 television broadcasts and 2,856 radio broadcasts.
Cold storage key
Officials are launching the plan as they prepare to open a $500,000 cold storage unit at the Free Trade Bridge.
The joint project between the city, San Benito and Cameron County will allow northbound trucks to store their produce as they wait to pass inspection to enter the United States.
Under an agreement, the cities of Harlingen and San Benito are each funding $134,121 of the project cost, while Cameron County pays $268,243.
“We definitely want to target produce companies and facilitate their crossing while making it easier and quicker for them to distribute their goods,” Serna said.
He said the cold storage unit is expected to open within 45 days.
The city expects the marketing plan to help increase toll revenues at the $40 million Free Trade Bridge, which has generated significantly lower toll revenues than other Cameron County bridges since it opened in 1992.
Cameron County officials have said the bridge operates at about a 20-percent capacity.
However, the bridge’s number of crossings is rising.
“We’ve seen steady increases in crossings,” Serna said. “We want to keep increasing it.”
Harlingen – $15,253
San Benito – $15,253
Brownsville – $15,253
Cameron County – $30,516
Total – $122,064