Borderlands Big changes planned for Texas border bridge

Borderlands is a weekly rundown of developments in the world of United States-Mexico cross-border trucking and trade. This week: Big changes planned for Pharr bridge; Team Worldwide opens office in southern Arizona; Amazon to open fulfillment center in Texas Panhandle; and CG Railway launches bigger, faster vessels.

Big changes planned for Texas border bridge

Speeding up commercial truck traffic will be a priority when the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge’s largest expansion project in history is completed in 2023, said Luis Bazán, the bridge’s general director.

The expansion includes building a second international bridge in Pharr, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border to add cargo capacity and reduce wait times for commercial trucks.

“With the second span for the bridge, we’re adding another bridge, we’re adding four additional lanes,” Bazán told FreightWaves. 

Bazán said the second span will give Pharr additional lanes to separate commercial trucks and cars, as well as dedicating specific lanes for empty trucks, full cargo trucks and certified cargo.

The bridge expansion also includes adding Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lanes from Mexico to the United States.

The 3.2 mile Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge currently has four lanes, handling commercial and passenger vehicles. The expanded bridge could accommodate another 800 trucks a day, according to Pharr officials.

The project received a boost Dec. 31 when former President Donald Trump issued a presidential permit authorizing the expansion.

The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge was the second-busiest commercial truck crossing in Texas during 2020 and the third busiest on the Mexican border.

The busiest U.S.-Mexico border commercial land ports for trucks in 2020 were:

  • Laredo, Texas, 2.3 million trucks in 2020.
  • Otay Mesa, California, 927,714.
  • Pharr, 665,435.
  • Nogales, Arizona, 352,037.
  • El Paso, Texas, 286,434.

The Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI), published by FreightWaves and available on the SONAR market dashboard, measures volume out of key freight markets.

As of Thursday, McAllen, Texas – which includes the Pharr-Reynosa market – had seen a 28% increase in outbound load volume year-over-year.

Outbound Tender Volumes in McAllen declined moderately from a week ago but climbed moderately year-over-year. SONAR: OTVI.MFE
For carriers, the Pharr international bridge is also notable for how much longer the average length of haul is from McAllen versus the rest of the country, 930 miles versus 630 miles. SONAR: OALOHA.MFE

The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, which connects Texas to the Mexican city of Reynosa, totaled $33 billion in trade for all of 2020.

“It was a record year for us in 2020, especially for produce,” Bazán said. “Even with the pandemic, throughout the summer months we were bringing in around 15,000 shipments per month, which is kind of unheard of for a summer period.” 

The Pharr bridges’ top three imports for 2020 were TVs and computers at $2.31 billion; avocados, dates, figs and pineapples at $1.43 billion; and electrical boards, panels, switches at $993 million, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau analyzed by World City.

The Pharr bridges’ top produce imports in 2020 included:

  • Avocados, dates and pineapples, $1.4 billion.
  • Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, $955 million.
  • Tomatoes, $593 million.
  • Peppers, asparagus and squash, $428 million.
  • Oranges and grapefruits, $355 million.
  • Pickles and cucumbers, $84 million.
  • Melons and papayas, $46 million.

Bazán said the next step is getting the environmental clearance needed to proceed with construction.

“Once we get the environmental clearance, then we get into the conceptual plans on both sides of the [U.S.-Mexico] border to finalize plans,” Bazán said. “It’s looking like we’re going to start construction within the first quarter of 2022. It’s a 14-month construction period to build the entire second span of the bridge.”

Bazán said connecting lanes on both sides of the border from the existing bridge to the new span will be built for emergency and contingency situations. 

“We are looking at 2023 by the time we’re done building the new bridge. It’s a very aggressive timeline,” Bazán said. “The trucks keep coming, they never stop.”

Team Worldwide opens office in southern Arizona

Team Worldwide, a global third-party logistics provider company, recently opened a branch office in Nogales, Arizona.

The new location is the company’s fifth along the U.S.-Mexico border. It will serve Team Worldwide’s clients in Tucson, Arizona, focusing on integrating international business from Mexico as well as growing domestic business in the Tucson market.

Eleazar Romero will be the general manager of Team Worldwide’s Nogales office.

“The strength of our business model lies in our network of locally owned and operated branch offices. By adding Tucson to our network, we look forward to providing additional cross-vertical solutions to clients,” Randy Sinker, president of Team Worldwide, said in a statement.

Established in 1979, Team Worldwide is a freight forwarder and third-party logistics provider. The company operates more than 45 branches across the U.S. Team Worldwide is headquartered in Winnsboro, Texas.

Amazon to open fulfillment center in Texas Panhandle

Amazon Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently announced plans for a fulfillment center in Amarillo, Texas.

The fulfillment center is expected to create more than 500 full-time jobs in the 1 million-square-foot fulfillment center. Employees will work to pick, pack and ship bulky or larger-sized customer items such as furniture, outdoor equipment or rugs.

The facility is scheduled to open in early 2022. Since 2010, Amazon has invested $16.9 billion in Texas, creating more than 70,000 jobs, according to the company.

CG Railway launches bigger, faster vessels

CG Railway (CGR) announced the launch of the first of two new rail ferries that will transport railcars between Mobile, Alabama, and the Port of Coatzacoalcos in southern Mexico. 

The two ferries will replace CGR’s two existing vessels, which have transported over 200,000 rail cars in more than 1,400 sailings between Mobile and Coatzacoalcos.

The 590-foot-long ferries are designed to carry 135 railcars each, up from 115 railcars on the existing ferries, with an expected top speed of 14 knots, up from 7 knots, according to a release

Mobile-based CGR operates a Class 3 railroad and ferry service transporting approximately 10,000 annual carloads of diversified commodities across the Gulf of Mexico.

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