San Benito, Harlingen mull bridge promotion

SAN BENITO — For more than 25 years, the city has counted on the Free Trade Bridge to pour hefty toll revenues into its coffers.

However, the bridge has generated significantly lower revenues than other Cameron County bridges since it opened in Los Indios.

In 1992, the $40 million span opened after San Benito and Harlingen leaders pushed for an international bridge for decades.

But unlike other area bridges that tied U.S. and Mexican cities along the Rio Grande, at Los Indios there was little on the other side.

So much of the struggle also has aimed at changing decades-old trucking routes.

Meanwhile, new bridges have popped up along the border vying for Mexican truck traffic.

Now, the three municipal partners are launching the plan as they prepare to open a $500,000 cold storage unit at the bridge.

That cold storage facility will allow northbound trucks to store their produce as they wait to pass inspection to enter the United States.

But, more people and truckers need to know about it.

So, later today, San Benito city commissioners are expected to consider entering into an agreement to help fund an advertising campaign aimed at marketing the bridge on both sides of the border.

As part of the agreement, the city would pay $15,258.

The city, which received $356,000 in toll revenues last year, plans to dip into its bridge revenues to fund its share of the campaign.

Tomorrow in Harlingen, city commissioners there are expected to consider approving the same payment to help fund the $61,032 campaign.

The city plans to tap into its bridge revenues estimated at about $562,000 to fund its share of the program.

Meanwhile, Cameron County would pay $30,516.

“By cost-sharing the promotional expenses with the county and city of Harlingen, we are able to stretch our dollars more efficiently and reach the targeted market that can benefit from use of the bridge,” city spokeswoman Martha McClain stated yesterday.

Under the agreement, the three partners would work with Entravision Communications to launch the marketing plan focusing on the Free Trade Bridge and the Brownsville-area bridges Veterans International Bridge and Gateway International Bridge.

What’s the focus

The campaign would aim 50 percent of its television and radio broadcasts to promote the Free Trade Bridge while focusing 25 percent of its effort at each of two Brownsville-area bridges.

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, according to information released by Harlingen.

The campaign 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.

Entravision plans to run 1,470 television broadcasts and 2,856 radio broadcasts.

The campaign features the bridge’s advantages including shorter waiting periods resulting in faster crossings and quicker access to major highways, McClain stated.

Cold Storage Facility marketing plan

– San Benito — $15,253

– Harlingen — $15,253

– Cameron County — $30,516

– Total — $61,032