Construction crews have been hard at work for months now reconstructing a rail bridge going across the Mexican border into Presidio, which is expected to help boost trade between the two countries.
The rail bridge is 391 miles long, running from the border in Presidio to Coleman, near Abilene. It was originally out of commission since it was damaged by fires in 2008 and 2009. This coincides with another Texas Department of Transportation project to expand the international bridge between Ojinaga in Mexico and Presidio from two lanes to four lanes. Both bridges will be the only international bridges owned by the state of Texas.
TxDOT reported the cost of the rail bridge reconstruction to be about $16.2 million and the highway bridge to be about $10 million, about $26.2 million in total.
Some of the funding for the bridge improvements was received due to some help from the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance. MOTRAN President James Beauchamp said they had worked with the Texas Secretary of State to move the process along on rehabilitating the rail bridge and make it a funding priority.
“Nearly everything that is going across down there is really to our benefit,” Beauchamp said.
Beauchamp said he anticipated to see much more trade and commerce coming from across the border. Some of that trade, he said, would include manufactured homes, produce like chili peppers and peanuts, and chickens, which are exported from Arkansas.
Newton said the highway bridge is expected to be completed by July, and the rail bridge is scheduled to be completed by September.
Brad Newton, executive director of the Presidio Municipal Development District, said the benefits of these bridges are mainly due to international trade. He said just last year, 1.5 million people came through the port of entry in Presidio.
“The Mexican shopper is very important to us,” Newton said. “Mexico is our largest trading partner, not only for Presidio, but for the state.”
Mennonites make up a large portion of the state of Chihuahua, about 90,000 out of 3.5 million, and the expansion of the bridge, Newton said, will make it easier for them to travel across the border to Presidio and other Texas cities.
“What I like about Mennonite shoppers, where you and I buy a candy bar, they buy the whole box,” Newton said. “They stock up, and we appreciate their business.”
Another benefit, aside from tourism, is agriculture, Newton said. The nearest major farms in Mexico are about 62 miles away from Ojinaga, but currently have to send their produce down to Reynosa, about 631 miles away near the south tip of Texas. A cold storage facility is also being built in Presidio, Newton said, allowing for Mexican produce to be shipped through Presidio and inspected there.
“The benefit to Texans is that we will get a whole lot fresher vegetables out of Mexico than we’re currently getting now,” Newton said.
Newton said there was also greater potential for the transportation of energy products to and from Mexico once the rail bridge is completed, due to a granite sand Mexico produces which is popular for fracking. There could also be situations where Mexican crude oil is shipped into the U.S., refined, and shipped back.
“Basically there’d be a refinery refining Mexican oil into US fuel and then selling it back to them,” Newton said.