HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — An expansion project of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge leading into South Texas is expected to add dozens of new inspection stations and increase the processing of commercial vehicles, particularly agricultural trucks that bring in tons of produce for U.S. consumption each year, federal and local officials announced Tuesday.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the General Services Administration, and the City of Pharr on Tuesday announced the formation of a public-private partnership that is expected to significantly boost commercial agriculture processing at the nation’s busiest land port for agricultural processing. In Fiscal Year 2019, the port processed about 1,800 commercial trucks carrying $13 million worth of agricultural goods daily, which amounted to about 15% of all fresh produce imported into the United States that year, the agency said.
The $40 million expansion project includes the construction of a new 10,000 square-foot agriculture inspection and training facility to help CBP agriculture specialists perform on-site inspections, testing, and to learn the latest methods. Twenty-four new inspection bays are to be built, 13 outfitted with cold-storage units to prevent produce from spoiling in the intense South Texas heat, according to a news release.
“With the continued increase of imports from Mexico, especially produce-related commodities, that require an inspection from our agriculture specialists, having these additional dock spaces will have a significant positive impact on our ability to expedite the processing time and get shipments on their way into U.S. commerce,” Port Director Carlos Rodriguez said. ““The additional cold storage bays will also serve proactively in maintaining the integrity of certain products while they are inspected in climate-controlled areas, rather than exposing them to the South Texas heat.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the bridge actually saw an increase in commercial traffic in August of about 11% from the previous year.
The project is part of the CBPs Donations Acceptance Programs, which allows the federal agency to accept donations of land or money for certain projects.
In December 2015, the City of Pharr submitted a formal proposal under the CBP Donations Acceptance Program for upgrades to the port. Tuesday’s announcement formalizes the project and allows construction to begin.
On Thursday, city officials led a ground-breaking ceremony and shoveled the first piles of dirt. Construction is expected to be completed by March 2022.
“GSA welcomes the opportunity to partner with CBP and the City of Pharr on this important project that contributes to the efficiency of commercial operations at the LPOE as well as trade with our neighbors to the south,” GSA Acting Regional Administrator Giancarlo Brizzi said. “Through donation programs like these, GSA is able expand and enhance port operations in ways previously unavailable to the federal government.”
“The City of Pharr remains committed to working with our federal partners to identify and implement innovative methods to expedite traffic and trade at our international port of entry, making border crossings and inspections function more effectively while helping our trade partners process and cross their goods more efficiently,” Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez said. “We are proud to partner with CBP on this and other Donations Acceptance Program projects that provide creative solutions to meet and address specific federal needs at the local level, and keep international trade and commerce flowing swiftly and smoothly.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.