New Mexican superhighway

On July 15, 2011, the first AeroMexico flight from Monterrey, Mexico, arrived at Brownsville South Padre International Airport to much fanfare. Less than a month later, Mexico’s largest airline announced it would extend by a year its trial run of service to Brownsville and add a third flight during the week. Last year, AeroMexico doubled its weekly Brownsville flights during April to accommodate Semana Santa travelers.

An ambitious, nearly complete superhighway connecting Mexico’s Pacific coast to the Gulf Coast has the potential to significantly benefit the Rio Grande Valley — but only with aggressive marketing of the area to companies that move products across the border.

That’s according to Steve Perez, president of Cargo USA Logistics. He said the so-called Mazatlan-to-Matamoros corridor, part of the comprehensive National Infrastructure Plan put forward by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón in 2007 to facilitate trade and tourism and boost the country’s economy, should be finished this July or August.

The task locally is to convince importers and exporters that a Brownsville-Matamoros crossing is a feasible, economical alternative to busy ports of entry such as Laredo and Nogales, he said. The fact that an increasing number of U.S. manufacturers are moving operations out of China and into Mexico adds to potential opportunities for Brownsville and the county, Perez noted.

Raw materials are shipping into Mexico, turned into products, then transported back into the United States and elsewhere worldwide.

“We have to do a good job at marketing, obviously,” he said. “This is a very big investment from the Mexican point of view — almost $2 billion to establish this corridor. Most of those billions are on the west site, from Mazatlan to Durango.”

mazatlan-durangoPerhaps the most impressive aspect of the corridor project is the Baluarte River Bridge in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in western Mexico. Spanning 1,706 feet and standing 1,321 feet high, it’s the tallest bridge in North America and the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world. The corridor features several other tall bridges in addition to Baluarte, as well as more than 60 tunnels.

The project has spurred construction of an overhead highway in Matamoros that will connect Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates with the Mazatlan-to-Matamoros superhighway, giving commercial traffic a route that avoids Matamoros traffic jams. The Matamoros highway should be finished in about four months, Perez said.

On the Texas side, the completion of Interstate 69 to the Valley will help provide the necessary infrastructure to lure more commercial traffic, as will the already partially complete Texas Highway 550, which will connect the Port of Brownsville with the future I-69 (now U.S. 77/83), he said.

Another essential piece is the Texas Highway 32 East Loop project, which will connect Veterans Bridge with the Port of Brownsville, Perez said. Construction on that project is expected to begin this year.



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