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FreightWaves Classics: The Port of Laredo is #1 inland port in U.S.

Port Laredo finished fourth overall during 2020 among the nation’s 450 international gateways for trade. (Photo: FreightWaves staff)

In Chapter 1 of this series on America’s ports, the Port of Boston was featured. The Port of Boston is the oldest seaport in the United States. To read that article, please follow this link

In Chapter 2, a different type of port will be profiled. 

U.S.-Mexico border in Texas

The Texas-Mexico border runs for 1,254 miles and is the longest border of any state with the nation of Mexico. According to the Office of the Texas Comptroller, ports of entry within Texas accounted for nearly $740 billion in international trade in 2018. In total, Texas has 29 official ports of entry that serve as global trade gateways. Laredo’s several border crossings form one of 11 land ports.

Each port, whether an airport, land port or seaport, serves domestic and international economic activities across multiple industries. As noted by the Comptroller’s Office, “Each Texas port plays a distinctive role in the state’s transportation network and contributes to the state and local economies.”

The Texas land ports facilitate the movement of people and goods between the United States and Mexico through rail, commercial and personal vehicles and pedestrian traffic.

An aerial view of the World Trade International Bridge of the Port of Laredo. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
An aerial view of the World Trade International Bridge of the Port of Laredo. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The Port of Laredo

The Port of Laredo is the number 1 inland port along the U.S.-Mexico border and ranks fourth in the nation with $205.88 billion in imports and exports in 2020 according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by WorldCity.

In 2018, $408 billion (or 55.2%) of Texas’ total international trade traveled across the state’s border crossings with Mexico. Of that amount, the Laredo port of entry accounted for 57.6% of land port trade, or about $234.7 billion. This is an increase of 193% in the 15 years since 2003, when the Port of Laredo accounted for $80.1 billion in land port trade.

Mexico accounts for 97.5% of the Laredo port of entry’s total trade. The second-largest trading partner using this port is China, which only accounts for 1% of the trade at this port.

The top products imported through the Port of Laredo are vehicles, machinery and electronics; the top products exported through this port are machinery, electronics, vehicles and plastics.

Goods shipped through Laredo travel to more than 60 countries.

As many as 8,000 commercial trucks a day cross both of Laredo’s two bridges, carrying everything from cars, auto parts and produce to electronics and medical equipment. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
As many as 8,000 commercial trucks a day cross both of Laredo’s two bridges, carrying everything from cars, auto parts and produce to electronics and medical equipment. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

The port’s vehicle bridges

The Port of Laredo consists of one rail bridge and four vehicle bridges that connect the city of Laredo, Texas with Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Three of the bridges are used by private vehicles to cross the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Of the four international bridges used by trucks and automobiles, Bridge 1 is the Gateway to the Americas Bridge. It is used for non-commercial vehicles and pedestrians. Bridge 2 is the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge, which is used for non-commercial vehicles. Bridge 3 is the Columbia Solidarity Bridge, which is used by non-commercial and commercial vehicle traffic. These three bridges are located in downtown Laredo.

The Laredo World Trade Port of Entry is located at the World Trade International Bridge, or Bridge 4. It was constructed in 2000 to relieve traffic on the congested bridges in downtown Laredo. The majority of Laredo’s cross-border commercial vehicle traffic uses this Port of Entry, because the other Laredo bridges prohibit trucks. At the same time, passenger vehicles and pedestrians are prohibited to use this bridge and use one of the three other bridges that are part of this port of entry complex.

Between the World Trade Bridge and the Columbia Solidarity Bridge, about 14,000 commercial trucks cross the bridges each day. 

Approximately 4.458 million trucks crossed the border in 2020 (both northbound and southbound). 

Greater Laredo is the home to more than 220 freight forwarders, 650 trucking companies and 120 U.S. customs brokers.

A photograph of a Kansas City Southern train.
A Kansas City Southern train heads to its next destination. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Rail service

International rail service is provided by the Union Pacific Railroad and Kansas City Southern Railway Company.

Union Pacific provides intermodal service to within 8 miles of most Laredo-area industrial parks as well as service to Dallas and the Midwest. Kansas City Southern interchanges with BNSF Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad and owns the Laredo International Railroad Bridge and Kansas Southern de Mexico (KCSM). KCSM has interchange service at Laredo and Brownsville, Texas. KCSM serves the ports of Veracruz, Tampico, Lazaro Cardenas, Bulkmatic Transload Service at Monterrey, Mexico and will service a trans-loading center in Toluca.

In 2020, 238,477 rail cars crossed through the Port of Laredo from Mexico.

FedEx 767 in flight. (Photo: FedEx)
A FedEx 767 aircraft in flight. (Photo: FedEx)

Air cargo

The Laredo International Airport is a USMCA gateway for air cargo. In 2020, nearly 401 million pounds of air cargo landed via the Port of Laredo. In addition to service by FedEx and UPS, there are more than 30 air cargo charter operators that offer on-demand service from Laredo.

Economic impact

Based on an estimate by the Comptroller’s office, 2018 trade through the Laredo port of entry impacted about 474,400 net jobs in Texas. In addition, about $72 billion in GDP is related to trade through this port of entry.

FreightWaves reporter Noi Mahoney writes often about the Port of Laredo. An example can be found here. You can follow his reporting on

In addition to information from the Office of the Texas Comptroller, information for this article came from the U.S. Census Bureau: Economic Indicators Division, USA Trade Online and the Laredo Economic Development Corporation.

Scott Mall

Scott Mall serves as Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics. He writes articles for the website, edits the SONAR Daily Watch series, marketing material for FreightWaves and a variety of FreightWaves special projects. Mall’s career spans 45 years in public relations, marketing and communications for Fortune 500 corporations, international non-profits, public relations agencies and government agencies.