EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — The State of Texas has approved $237 million for a new International Bridge Trade Corridor highway that will connect several South Texas ports of entry to better foster trade with Mexico.
It also will improve border security in the region, said Texas state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
It is part of a record $142 billion total investment in state transportation infrastructure projects that have been approved for the next decade as part of the 2024 Unified Transportation Program, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday during a stop in Edinburg.
The International Bridge Trade Corridor is a 13-mile, four-lane divided non-toll highway that Canales says will be built in Hidalgo County to better connect the international bridges that are located between the towns of Pharr to Donna.
The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge is the No. 1 port for the transportation of fruits and vegetables from Mexico.
Canales says it also is the No. 1 land port in the United States for the export of oil and gas on land to Mexico.
“Getting those trucks out of our neighborhoods that are full of oil and gas going south and even the ones that are full of innocuous fruits and vegetables, they’re still huge commercial traffic machines that are not safe to be on our city streets. And so the goal is to alleviate the congestion within these communities, move the commercial traffic out for safety but it’s also a win-win, you get to move it faster, which is a bigger boost to the economy,” Canales told Border Report on Thursday from his offices in Edinburg.
Canales says eventually the International Bridge Trade Corridor will connect to State Highway 68, which is a north-to-south road that has not been built yet in Hidalgo County but is planned to loop trucks away from populated highways and subdivisions.
“Imagine kind of like a cattle chute that runs along this side of the Texas-Mexico border where our commercial traffic goes, well, that corridor (will) connect to Highway 68 and 68 would be driving the traffic ultimately,” Canales said.
If Highway 68 is funded and built as he expects, then it would end near the South Texas International Airport in Edinburg, where he said truckers could unload produce and other products could be flown to other cities and towns in the United States.
“That’s the bigger picture is not only do we get the commercial traffic moving quicker, we’re also going to have the capacity to add an airport component. That’s a $50 million expansion of that airport which we will be fighting for next session,” he said.
For now, he said the International Bridge Trade Corridor has the money and green light to begin construction. Several right-of-way land parcels already have been appropriated and he said he expects construction to begin within a year.
Aside from being a quick trade route for trucks, he says the new Corridor also will provide additional border security because cameras and other equipment will be installed in the new roadway to better track Mexican truckers.
“Imagine a fully loaded 18-wheeler crossing the bridge right now. When it crosses the bridge, we don’t know where it goes. It’s spiders off and there’s no way to monitor it. Here, going forward with the International Bridge Trade Corridor and this commercial corridor, we will know exactly where that truck is. We will know where it crosses. We will know how it’s headed because it will be on one road moving one direction. And so being able to monitor commercial traffic is extremely crucial in moving forward with border security,” Canales said.
Canales sits on the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, which he says has studied how to equip Texas roadways with border surveillance cameras. He told Border Report it is his hope that, once installed, the surveillance equipment will allow some of the Texas troopers who have been sent to the border as part of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border security initiative to be relieved of their duties in the RGV.
“So by using technology, we can get a lot of troopers back to their areas. Because what we’ve done is we’ve taken troopers from other portions of the state for border security,” he said. “Other portions of states have suffered because they don’t have those troopers. And so border security is important. And making sure that we have secured the border is important. But the way in which we do it is also important. So we can implement technology and make sure our troopers get to go back to their areas where they can patrol and keep those neighborhoods and areas safe.”
Gov. Abbott touted the new International Bridge Trade Corridor on Thursday as he gave the keynote address at the Rio Grande Valley Economic Summit held in Edinburg.
“As one of the fastest growing areas in the entire state and home to our most important port, the Rio Grande Valley is where the economic future of Texas lies,” Abbott said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com