PHARR — Trucks crossed the bridge here in large numbers this summer, ahead of a busy stretch of winter months anticipated at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, when produce season goes into full swing come October.
It was capped off with an August where 53,662 commercial trucks crossed from Pharr into Mexico, up nearly 3,500 trucks from August 2018, as the bridge continues its aggressive push to continue commercial truck expansions.
“We’ve been in a very aggressive travel schedule,” bridge Director Luis Bazan said at a meeting on Wednesday with the bridge’s board members, citing various meetings and conferences he and other bridge staff have attended this year in Mexico and the United States. “This is all intended to promote the bridge, specifically as we get closer to starting construction of these projects.”
Those projects include a large upgrade to the bridge’s administrative offices, which will feature a large room to host delegations of state and federal lawmakers and trade stakeholders, all of whom visit the bridge regularly.
Construction on this project is imminent while another project that officials are hoping to start on is a connecting roadway for trucks that is expected to help alleviate congestion — a project that has eluded officials for years.
With other construction projects planned, Pharr City Engineer Omar Anzalduas said they can’t all be completed at once.
“We have to stagger those so there aren’t interruptions at the bridge,” Anzalduas said on Wednesday.
Interruptions persisted at the bridge in the spring and early summer, following President Trump threatening to close the southern border in March and the subsequent reassignment of hundreds of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers from their posts at ports of entry to Border Patrol stations to assist with immigration duties.
The reassignments infuriated the trade industry, which did not understand how officers trained to inspect vehicles were appropriately suited to handle immigration issues. But just this week, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and CBP confirmed that the officers recently returned to their original posts at ports along the border.
“The reallocation of officers caused significant delays at our ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, greatly impacting our country’s economic competitiveness and national security,” Cuellar said in a statement, which was titled: “Men and women in blue are back!”
And now that the officers have returned, Pharr officials said they’ve been able to focus on the construction projects, which are not expected to deter Bazan and other employees from promoting the bridge.
“And we have an increased budget for marketing and travel for this upcoming year,” Bazan told the bridge’s board members. “And we’re going to need it.”