Los Indios bridge traffic down 72 percent in April

Tractor trailers wait their turn in the commercial traffic inspection area at the Los Indios Free Trade Bridge on Monday

HARLINGEN — Crossings at the Free Trade International Bridge at Los Indios were down 72 percent in April, hit hard by restrictions on visitors coming north and a slowdown in manufacturing in northern Mexico.

Josue Garcia Jr., bridge director for Cameron County, delivered the update on Los Indios this week in a YouTube interview with Harlingen Economic Development Corp. CEO Raudel Garza.

Last month, total crossings — pedestrian, passenger vehicles and commercial trucks — numbered just 10,066, down from 35,952 in April 2019, Garcia said.

“The president issued out a mandate on March 20 as far as essential versus non-essential crossings,” Garcia said. “Now what does that mean? People who are U.S. citizens, people with green cards, those people can go in and out every day. The people with visas, those are the people who are restricted from coming in.

“In other words, people who would come in for enjoyment, or whatever that would be, even a vacation,” Garcia added, “those folks are not allowed to cross.”

Auto passenger traffic, which Garcia said is referred to as POVs, or privately owned vehicles, dropped from 26,424 in 2019 to just 8,501 in April, a reduction of 68 percent.

Truck traffic was 928, down 55 percent, and transmigrante crossings were just 270, down 95 percent.

Transmigrantes are commercial operations which ferry used consumer goods from the United States to Mexico for re-sale.

Garcia said the presidential mandate did not affect commercial truck crossings. The problem for the slowdown in that segment, he said, can be attributed to the coronavirus’s effect on manufacturing in northern Mexico.

“It’s basically what we’re seeing up and down the southern border,” Garcia said. “This is a result of, in our case, the maquiladoras working on skeleton crews so that’s something everybody’s being faced with at this time.”

Garcia said the number of bridge crossings at Los Indios and all of Cameron County’s bridges should revive as early as next week when the essential versus non-essential presidential edict expires on May 20.

The county bridge director said the coronavirus-related slowdown at the Los Indios bridge has forced some delays in projects that were in the works, including a new emphasis on marketing the bridge and its relatively new cold storage facility to Mexican produce growers and shippers.

The Los Indios bridge is jointly owned by Cameron County, Harlingen and San Benito.

“We had been scheduled to be in Monterrey this month and Mexico City the following month, but unfortunately those have been pushed down,” he said.

Garcia and his staff hope to contact commercial and trucking organizations in Mexico directly to promote the cold storage facility, which allows northbound produce to be inspected without allowing the perishable fruits and vegetables to warm, reducing shelf life.

“Once we start doing that, we’ll hopefully be drawing more traffic,” he said.