Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz recently highlighted plans to remodel and expand the World Trade International Bridge, speeding up wait times for the 12,000 trucks crossing the Texas-Mexico border every day.
Saenz’s comments came during his speech at the 80th annual Congress of the Mexican Confederation of Associations of Customs Agents (CAAAREM) in Mérida, Mexico, July 13.
Improvements at Laredo’s World International Trade Bridge includes a paved lane for empty tractor-trailers to run directly from the bridge under the Free and Secure Trade (FAST) lane, a trusted shipper program. Other improvements include using Z-portal technology, similar to x-ray machines, used to make quick reviews of trucks.
“A truck can be processed in less than a minute; they can already identify the load that is there,” Saenz said according to Mexico’s El Financiero newspaper. “This will eliminate 20 to 30 percent of the traffic, speeding up and making the crossing fluid. Those boxes will go through a Z-portal, which are ‘x rays’ of inspection.”
Trucks coming into the U.S. from Mexico sometimes waited up to four hours on the line between the checkpoint and the U.S. Custom Border Protection (CBP) review, not counting the time it took to get through the customs checkpoint in Mexico, according to customs officials.
The FAST lane project at Laredo’s World International Trade Bridge will eventually expand to four lanes, but will begin with one lane. Construction of the lane began in May at a cost of around $10 million.
The total value of goods that crossed through Port Laredo was $234.7 billion in 2018, an increase of 9 percent over 2017, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of trucks that crossed the border in both directions was almost 4.6 million.
“This is the real NAFTA, as we call it, NAFTA that will now be called the [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement],” Saenz said.
Saenz also discussed expanding the World International Trade Bridge facility from eight to 16 lanes in the future and having joint custom inspections between Mexican and U.S officials for goods being transported by rail.
“It depends on the studies – each [new truck] lane could cost $40 to $50 million,” Saenz said.
Founded in 1938, CAAAREM represents the professional interests of customs brokers throughout Mexico. CAAAREM represents more than 800 customs agents working in maritime, air cargo, trucking and logistics, belonging to 38 different associations.
Along with Saenz, other officials attending the event included Nuevo Laredo Mayor Enrique Rivas. Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, is the sister city of Laredo, just across the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Nuevo Laredo is the commercial leader in Mexico,” Rivas said. “That’s why – together with Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, we talked about the customs advantages of Nuevo Laredo and Laredo – the port of ‘Los Dos Laredos’ at the 80th Congress of CAAAREM,” Rivas said.
Some of the topics at this year’s 80th CAAAREM Congress included the Mayan Train, “Blockchain and Big Data, the future of secure foreign trade operations,” and “Artificial Intelligence: The future of global logistics, autonomous transport.”
Texas- and U.S.-related discussion topics included “Pharr International Bridge: All the Right Moves in the Right Place” and “Matamoros & Brownsville in the Spotlight,” and the implications of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s $6.5 billion Mayan Train is a proposed 948-mile railroad that would cut through the Yucatán Peninsula connecting Mayan temples for tourists.
It has drawn criticism from the trade community who say the money should be spent improving Mexico’s highways and infrastructure, or more freight trains should be added to the project.