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Monday, December 28, 2009

Mission, Texas, bridge under scrutiny

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 The City of Mission, Texas, is lobbying the U.S State Department to retain a permit to build another international bridge, mere weeks after the completion of the Rio Grande Valley's newest crossing, according to The Monitor.

 There is no plan or funding to build another crossing, but Mission city officials said they want to retain the 30-year-old permit because it allows them to connect railroads on both sides of the border, something the newly unveiled Anzalduas International Bridge does not.


"Of course we want to keep it. We're not going to give it to them. It is ours," said Mission Mayor Norberto "Beto" Salinas.

The State Department informed city leaders in late September that it would reconsider the Presidential permit in February. After the announcement Salinas rallied local Mexican and American officials and businessman to his side.

 Officials said a new rail crossing would cater to Reynosa's expansive maquiladora industry. As of now the only two rail crossings in the area are miles away in Brownsville and Laredo, said Mission's city manager, Julio Cerda. The proposed bridge would also be open to vehicle traffic.

"There is a need for a connection, especially in the rail industry, because of the maquiladoras, so we're working in keeping it," he said.

To that end, city leaders and the Mission Economic Development Authority have met with the Kansas City Southern Railway to discuss connecting a new bridge with the railway company's existing lines in the U.S. and Mexico. Those rails cut across a wide swath of Mexico, including Mexico City. In the U.S. the rails run north from Texas and through Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Illinois, among other states.

The permit calls for the bridge to be constructed west of Mission and south of the Madero colonia, near where S. Conway Avenue becomes Military Highway. Hidalgo County officials and the county's railroad district have expressed support, Salinas said.

 Officials envision the new rail lines connecting with rail facilities in Sullivan City and in Hebbronville. 

But Keith Patridge, president and chief executive officer of the McAllen Economic Development Corp. said the bridge needs to be moved further west from the site in Madero to be closer to McAllen's proposed Multi-modal Regional Terminal - a facility where goods manufactured in Mexico could be loaded onto trains and taken to northern U.S. cities. The plans call for the facility to be constructed adjacent to the McAllen Foreign Trade Zone, near the intersection of Ware Road and Military Highway.

"That is not as good place today as it was 30 years ago, to build a rail bridge," Patridge said.

The State Department is accepting public comment on the review until February 8, when officials will meet with other federal entities to debate the need for a new crossing, the agency announced in the Federal Register on December 11. The department is also reconsidering similar permits in Brownsville and Laredo.

Since 1968, the State Department has issued 21 Presidential permits on the U.S.-Mexico border and one on the Canadian border.

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