Expansion in the Making

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Pharr International Bridge is one of the Valley’s busiest, seeing commerce pass at rates that rival Laredo or El Paso’s high volume of goods moving across the Rio Grande River.

“Our trade numbers, our crossings, our revenues speak for themselves,” Luis Bazan, Director of Pharr International Bridge said. “Based on those numbers we knew we had to do something to support it, to keep up with trade demand.

Expanding the Pharr Bridge has been Bazan’s priority for years. “This is something that was talked about years ago, even five years after the bridge opened in 1994,” Bazan said “It was just a matter of making the plans and getting to know the process.”

Getting international bridges built and expanded is no easy process. The work takes tireless communication, delegation, lobbying, and, most importantly, approval by the highest elected official in the country, the U.S. President.

When Pharr officials co-hosted a groundbreaking event with Mexican officials to signify the beginning of construction on the Northboard portion of the expansion, there was a reason for celebration.

“It hasn’t been easy and it’s not going to be easy going forward, especially when construction begins,” Bazan said.

“We’ve been learning the ins and outs as we go through this process. Nobody’s an expert at this when you’re dealing with two different federal governments, two different cultures, two different parts of the world. There’s a lot at stake and a lot of different requirements. For us, the biggest requirement is having a presidential permit.”

The road to approval took years of lobbying and meeting with government officials.

On Dec. 31, 2020, former President Donald Trump awarded the much-needed permit for Pharr to expand its current bridge to add an additional lane.

According to a City of Pharr press release: “This second span will give Pharr a competitive advantage by adding additional lanes to completely separate trucks and cars, dedicating specific lanes for empties, full cargo, certified cargo, and passenger vehicles, thereby adding capacity and reducing wait times.”

The dedicated lanes for different needs will be a game-changer so that people traveling for vacation and truckers moving cargo won’t be stuck in similar situations. The relief of congestion could further expand the use of an already popular bridge.

“Our numbers are already there,” Bazan said. “We’re the No. 1 produce bridge in the nation right now. We’re the third largest land port of entry in the state. When I got to this position, we were fourth or fifth. It was a dream at first, and now it’s becoming closer to reality.”

Along with advocating for the project’s approval, Bazan oversees a unique bridge connect program that brings stakeholders, businesses, and investors together. The ‘Bridge Connect’ meetings consist of seminars, talks, and share best practices and industry news for individuals and companies that make their livelihood working around international trade and commerce.

“We do need to be strategically positioned for the future demands of trades,” Bazan said. “To see this rise from nothingness to now be in this situation is groundbreaking, a game-changer. We’re putting our money where our mouth is at the end of the day and putting skin in the game. We followed all the rules, the protocols, and now it’s time to let this thing get built and see not just the city of Pharr prosper but the international trade community.”

While Pharr is the municipality pushing forward, Bazan knows that the benefits will spill across the entire Valley and Mexico and give the entire region an edge in the trade field.

“This is great for both countries,” he said. “This will put the Rio Grande Valley on the global stage with a competitive advantage.”

Nathaniel Mata