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Author Topic: Possible Laredo Fifth International Bridge  (Read 440 times)

Grzrd

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Possible Laredo Fifth International Bridge
« on: January 10, 2018, 12:02:02 PM »

This December 26 article sets forth the competing political factors relating to construction of a possible fifth bridge:

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Anyone who lives in the northwest quadrant of Laredo is familiar with the intense truck traffic that burgeons from the tollbooths of the World Trade Bridge.
But this commerce equals dollar signs for the customs brokers, trade, and logistics and manufacturing companies that call Laredo home, and for the City of Laredo, which collects tolls on the trucks going southbound.
To protect Laredo's place as the country's No. 1 inland port, the city, state and federal governments have expressed that they want to increase the number of lanes at the World Trade Bridge from eight to 16.
In the meantime, the city plans to spend over $10 million toward a "FAST lane" that will allow pre-certified trucks to glide into the U.S. without having to be inspected on both sides of the river.
And in November, the city applied for a huge federal grant that would help pay for the construction of five direct connectors from I-35 to Loop 20 and two additional main lanes and shoulders that connect the World Trade Bridge to I-35, a $130 million project.
So officials on this side of the river want the goose that laid the golden egg, as this bridge is often referred, to grow a little fatter.
In Mexico, however, officials want an entire second goose.

In a June 12 letter to Oscar Callejo, Mexico's vice secretary of infrastructure, Texas Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos asks for Callejo's plans to address congestion at the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo international bridges.
"I have heard on several occasions about the City of Laredo's plans to expand the World Trade Bridge by adding eight lanes. I have also heard about plans to expand crossing capacity by building a new international bridge somewhere within the urban footprint," Pablos wrote.
In Callejo's reply, dated June 20, he lists seven reasons why a new bridge south of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo would offer "important comparative advantages" over an expansion at the World Trade Bridge: A new bridge is self-financing in Mexico, the land is available to build roads that connect to it, it would balance the traffic at region's bridges, etc.
Mexico's Department of Communications and Transportation main objective is to "boost private investments in technically and financially viable projects," Callejo wrote.
"In this sense (the Department of Communications and Transportation) is certain that the only option to help relieve the present saturation of the system, and also to provide assistance during extraordinary events such as the storm that paralyzed operations for several days in May, is to build the project Nuevo Puente Internacional Laredo 4/5," Callejo wrote.
Talk of Laredo's fifth bridge — Nuevo Laredo's fourth, hence the moniker "bridge 4/5" — dates back years. Both the city and county wanted sole control over the project in 2003; they hired separate consultants, submitted separate applications to compete for the same presidential permit, and in the end spent millions of dollars on a project that never got off the ground.
But now, Mexican customs broker and entrepreneur Glafiro Montemayor has promised $300 million toward the construction of bridge 4/5, and possibly even roads leading away from the bridge, Mayor Pete Saenz told LMT last week.
"Frankly, as a mayor, when people say they've got $300 million to invest on border structures, a bridge in particular, we've got to pay attention," Saenz said.
And the reason Mexico has chosen this site for a new bridge is because it's private money, Saenz said. The Mexican government would not have to finance the vast majority, if any, of the project.
But officials and stakeholders on the U.S. side do not want to let the World Trade Bridge expansion fall to the wayside so as to concentrate only on a new bridge.
In November, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Saenz wrote a letter to Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexico's secretary of foreign affairs, asking him to consider both the World Trade Bridge expansion and the bridge 4/5 project.
"If agreement cannot be reached between the three levels of governments on both sides of the border regarding both WTB and a new International Laredo Bridge 4/5, the Laredo region will be bypassed by other southern border projects where stakeholder consensus exists," Cuellar wrote.
"We do not find it helpful to find written correspondence from a Mexican transportation official prematurely dismissing any of our Laredo region's international transportation projects without adequate and open binational discussions," Cuellar continued. He could not say what correspondence this refers to.
So on Dec. 15, Cuellar called a meeting at the World Trade Bridge to discuss these bridges and get the Mexicans and Americans on the same page.
In attendance were representatives U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Sen. John Cornyn's office, the U.S. Department of State, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Department of Transportation, the City of Laredo, Webb County and stakeholders in the private sector. Plus, from Mexico: Callejo, Glafiro Montemayor, and representatives from the City of Nuevo Laredo, the State of Tamaulipas, the Secretary of Foreign Relations, Service Tax Administration, and others.
"The message is simple — we're unified in Laredo," Cuellar said.
He told the group that they need to understand that bridge 4/5 is part of the longtime plan for Laredo, but the immediate need is for the World Trade Bridge expansion, Cuellar told LMT.
He took a few Mexican officials on a helicopter ride to the site of where bridge 4/5 is proposed, between Rio Bravo and El Cenizo. He showed them the sparse infrastructure that exists there on both sides of the border, Cuellar said.
At one point, the binational bridge committee, which meets annually, was only set to talk about bridge 4/5. Cuellar said he told Mexican officials that he wants the World Trade Bridge expansion on the agenda as well, and everyone at the meeting agreed to progress both bridge projects, he said — World Trade Bridge short-term, bridge 4/5 long-term.
"We're saying now at this point, both are important. Let's not fight over which one comes first," Saenz said.
And Cuellar said he offered to find a private investor for the Mexican side of the WTB if that's what's holding those officials back from embracing the expansion.
It's a safe bet, he said.
What's next for bridge 4/5
Montemayor, the potential investor for the 4/5 project, was not available to comment on this story Friday.
But Saenz said if he had his way, he'd be building the bridge now.
"They've been gung-ho for years. (Montemayor has) been working on this project for 15 years probably, or longer," he said.
On the U.S. side, the Hachar Trust owns the land for the proposed bridge, and has said informally that it's willing to donate 300 acres for this project, Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina said.
But before anything gets started, the city and county would need to commission a study to make sure this is the best location for a fifth bridge.
"It's got to be objectively done. Because that's the right thing to do toward making decisions, using data," Saenz said. "... But I suspect that if there's $300 million on the Mexican side, chances are the studies are going to align themselves to that site because it stands to reason."
And the city and county haven't quite agreed on how the bridge's ownership will be worked out.
Tijerina said 100 percent of this project is the county's, although he's definitely inviting the city's involvement.
Webb County is always looking at how to bring in more revenue, he said, and right now their two main sources are property taxes and oil and gas activity.
"This is the reason the 4/5 bridge is so important," he said.
But the city must operate the bridge, Saenz said, since they're in the bridge business.
"I know the county has said that they need to participate someway somehow, and I think there could be room for the county, but they can't just get the gravy and not put in some of the liability. We're working things out," the mayor said.
Regardless, Tijerina told LMT last week that he was on cloud nine after Cuellar's meeting, and that the progression of the bridge 4/5 project has been a priority for his three years in office.
"This project literally turned around in 24 hours," he said.
El Cenizo Mayor Raul Reyes agreed that this bridge is long overdue, and said it's something he's been supporting since he took his office in 2004.
Although it would not provide a direct benefit to the 3,000 people of El Cenizo, it would go on to create jobs and improve infrastructure, Reyes said.
"I'm ecstatic to say the least," he said.
Private sector
The argument of some people in the trade industry has been that all the warehouses are already in north Laredo, and a bridge to the south of the city doesn't make much sense.
"But I figure in 15, 30 years from now, we'll be so saturated that we'll need that bridge. The concern the city has had and maintains is we don't want a fifth bridge competing with our other bridges when these other bridges could still handle the traffic," Saenz said.
In an unsigned letter dated Dec. 12, the presidents of the Laredo Motor Carriers Association, the Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association and the Association of Logistics & Forwarding Agents spelled out their concerns for building a bridge so far south — 33 miles away from the warehouse district, they say.
According to their letter, bridge 4/5 is unlikely to succeed because no infrastructure exists for commercial traffic at the proposed site, a presidential permit to begin its construction will take three to five years, and if the bridge were to connect to the proposed "outer loop," all of this commercial traffic would bypass Laredo entirely.
Enrique Gonzalez, president of the Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association, said this letter, which was titled as a press release, was meant as a rough draft, and it got out to many more people than it was intended to.
Gonzalez said these associations support all advancements in infrastructure, and agreed with the consensus coming out of Cuellar's meeting to move forward with both bridges. The congressman put it all in perspective, Gonzalez said.
"Let's get trailers crossing. Let's get going," he said.
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kphoger

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Re: Possible Laredo Fifth International Bridge
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2018, 02:16:55 PM »

Quote
The argument of some people in the trade industry has been that all the warehouses are already in north Laredo, and a bridge to the south of the city doesn't make much sense.

"But I figure in 15, 30 years from now, we'll be so saturated that we'll need that bridge. The concern the city has had and maintains is we don't want a fifth bridge competing with our other bridges when these other bridges could still handle the traffic," Saenz said.
In an unsigned letter dated Dec. 12, the presidents of the Laredo Motor Carriers Association, the Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association and the Association of Logistics & Forwarding Agents spelled out their concerns for building a bridge so far south — 33 miles away from the warehouse district, they say.

According to their letter, bridge 4/5 is unlikely to succeed because no infrastructure exists for commercial traffic at the proposed site, a presidential permit to begin its construction will take three to five years, and if the bridge were to connect to the proposed "outer loop," all of this commercial traffic would bypass Laredo entirely.

Enrique Gonzalez, president of the Laredo Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers Association, said this letter, which was titled as a press release, was meant as a rough draft, and it got out to many more people than it was intended to.

Gonzalez said these associations support all advancements in infrastructure, and agreed with the consensus coming out of Cuellar's meeting to move forward with both bridges. The congressman put it all in perspective, Gonzalez said.

"Let's get trailers crossing. Let's get going," he said.

These are my concerns as well.  The crossing at Colombia was basically a flop, in part because nearly all of the cross-border trucking infrastructure is located close in to the city.  "All of this commercial traffic" won't be bypassing "Laredo entirely" unless either {a} the Cross-border Trucking Pilot Program is revived and expanded to the point that the US–Mexican border is as open to international trucking as the US–Canadian border (unlikely due to the fact that neither political party seems to want that, for quite different reasons to each other), or else {b} the drayage yards all get relocated to near the bypass (unlikely, or else it already would have happened with the opening of the Colombia bridge).
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lordsutch

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Re: Possible Laredo Fifth International Bridge
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2018, 05:57:30 PM »

Unlike Colombia, though, a southern bridge would be far closer to densely populated areas on both sides of the border. Even if it doesn't attract commercial traffic at first, it would really benefit people who live in the southern part of Laredo or the colonias to the south who want to visit Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey, and vice versa, who now have to go 10+ miles out of their way to cross at Bridge 1 or Bridge 2, and probably steer some higher-end retail development down that way since people coming up from Monterrey for shopping trips wouldn't need to schlep all the way across Nuevo Laredo to get to the U.S. anymore.

Frankly a lot of the hold up on bridge 4/5 is jurisdictional squabbling, since Laredo probably wouldn't co-own the new bridge with the Mexican government and therefore it would have "competition" from Webb County or Rio Bravo or El Cenizo for the first time. Otherwise they'd have gotten the permit back in the early 2000s and it'd be done by now.
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