After years of working to get southbound commercial truck traffic at the Anzalduas International Bridge, the first “empties” (empty commercial trucks) began using the bridge Monday, August 22.
“It has been more than two years of planning for this moment and now it is finally going to be a reality. It took a lot of cooperation from several different governmental entities on both sides of the border. I especially want to thank Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Henry Cuellar and their staffs,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said.
“From a commerce standpoint, this is going to be a critical improvement for maquiladoras because they’ll be able to shorten the time it takes to return empty transporters saving not only time but money and helping the environment. The first international public – private partnership is now implemented.”
The agreement to allow trucks crossing is historic because the City of McAllen actually helped to pay for the infrastructure on the Mexican side of the bridge. It is the first time a municipality in the United States has made a contribution of this kind to the Mexican federal government.
McAllen contributed approximately $1.1 million for the improvements on the Mexican side. The funds were used to build an exclusive lane for southbound empties and to heighten some of the canopies so trucks can pass through. Under the inter-institutional agreement of cooperation with the Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes of the Estados Unidos Mexicanos, McAllen will recoup their costs and Mexico will receive 20 percent of the toll revenues collected, once it has paid back its debt.
The first week for “empties” crossing at Anzalduas was slow, but more and more trucks are expected to take advantage of the new crossing permit in the weeks ahead.
“We had a very short notice on the opening so we didn’t have time to advertise to the transport companies (and) customs brokers, so it’s starting off a little slow,”
Superintendent of Bridges Rigo Villarreal said Wednesday. “A lot of these companies that use the bridges don’t allow their drivers to pay cash. So they have to come in and set up an account and buy pre-paid cards. So, a company representative has to come in and fill out an application. Then we set up their account.”
When asked how many trucks per day are expected to use the bridge six months from now, Villarreal said, “It’s really hard to tell right now. It think after the first month we’ll have an idea, but right now I wouldn’t be able to answer that question for you. When you’ve been using one bridge for such a long time, you have a habit and those habits are not as easy to change. So, I think after a month we’ll have an idea.”
When Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas was asked in a telephone interview how the new truck crossing will benefit Mission, his answer was simple. “More bridge revenues.” The mayor also explained that the next step in allowing truck traffic to use Anzalduas will be northbound empties, and eventually northbound loaded trucks.
However, this will be a long drawn out process to get all the approvals from both nations and to build the necessary facilities to handle truck inspections and perform other functions at the bridge.
The bridge superintendent said, “That’s phase two, northbound empties. We’ll be submitting a donation proposal in the month of October to CBP. They will have two or three months to either approve, amend or reject it. And that’s specifically for the northbound empties project.”
If approval from CBP comes through as expected in January, then the bridge planners will begin designs and getting construction cost estimates.
Additional Facilities Needed
To accommodate northbound empties, a new lane would be constructed for the trucks as well as a toll booth for trucks, dock space, canopies, an inspection facility for TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation), and a federal inspection facility.
“So, it’s going to be a lot of communication with several state and federal agencies to get this done,” Villarreal said. It will likely take a couple of years to complete the process.
“And that’s putting it on the fast track,” Villarreal added.
Tolls for empty commercial trucks at Anzalduas Bridge currently range from $11.25 for just the semi truck without a trailer (two axles) to $25.25 for six axles. Hours of operation for the truck lane are 3 – 10 p.m., Monday – Friday.