Borderlands: MexicoNewsTrucking

Texas, California border-crossing projects key to US-Mexico trade growth

Port of entry expansions in Laredo and Otay Mesa vital to North America, ambassador says

Mexico’s ambassador to the United States recently lauded two binational border infrastructure projects in California and Texas as “flagship” endeavors that would increase trade across North America. 

“One of our binational flagship projects is the Otay Mesa East-Otay II,” said Esteban Moctezuma, Mexican ambassador to the U.S. “Another notable example is the Laredo 4/5 project, which seeks to build a new international bridge in the Laredos region to facilitate commercial flows.” 

Moctezuma’s remarks came Wednesday at the U.S.-Mexico Border Environmental Forum in San Antonio. The two-day event hosted by the North American Development Bank focused on cross-border partnerships, climate conservation finance, water issues, social and governance trends and other topics.  

Moctezuma and Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, were the keynote speakers on the first day of the forum.

“Our shared border and security are crucial for our shared prosperity, as they are key components to build a North American economic powerhouse,” Salazar said. “Mirrored investments along our shared border are crucial to protect our communities, seize the opportunities that come from our integration and protect the environment.”

Ken Salazar, left, U.S. ambassador to Mexico, and Esteban Moctezuma, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, discuss trade at the U.S.-Mexico Border Environmental Forum in San Antonio. (Photo: Noi Mahoney/FreightWaves)

Montezuma said land border infrastructure improvements, such as the 4/5 bridge and Otay Mesa projects, would “increase the economic competitiveness in North America.” 

“Otay Mesa East-Otay II … will become the most modern and innovative crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border,” Moctezuma said. “Its goal is to reduce a two-hour crossing time to just 20 minutes. The Laredo 4/5 project is a result of the high-level economic dialogue. This is paradigmatic of how institutionalized dialogue can turn into real actions.”

The addition of a fifth international commercial truck bridge in Laredo, Texas, connecting it to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, has been discussed for years. 

Laredo currently has three bridges — including the World Trade Bridge — connecting it to Nuevo Laredo, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. The Colombia Solidarity Bridge is just farther north and connects Laredo to the community of Colombia, in Nuevo León, Mexico. A fifth Laredo bridge would be the fourth for Nuevo Laredo, hence the moniker 4/5 bridge.

“The World Trade International Bridge, located in the Laredos region, is the most important for our bilateral trade,” Montezuma said. “Through active coordination of our economic policies, we will make our supply chains more resilient and expand production in North America.” 

Officials in Laredo and Webb County — where the 4/5 bridge would be located — are still working to get the project started. In March, Webb County commissioners passed a motion to develop a public-private partnership to examine financing, design, construction, operation and ownership of the bridge.

In 2021, Laredo handled 5.1 million cross-border commercial truck shipments. Officials estimate that building the 4/5 bridge could increase commercial truck traffic by as much as 5% annually. Laredo’s total trade was about $250 billion last year.

Montezuma also touted the $1.1 billion Otay Mesa East-Otay II project south of San Diego, which began construction on Monday. Otay Mesa East-Otay II will be the third port of entry in the area and the second for commercial truck traffic. The nearby San Ysidro port of entry processes passenger vehicles only. 

Otay Mesa East-Otay II will create a new crossing 3 miles east of the original Otay Mesa port of entry. It will include 10 lanes, five for passenger vehicles and five for cargo transport. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2024.

“Both [Otay Mesa East-Otay II and the 4/5 bridge] contemplate the use of technology to stop gun trafficking into Mexico and drug trafficking into the U.S., trusted traveler programs, reversible lanes and dynamic rates according to the crossing’s demand,” Moctezuma said. 

Watch: FreightWaves discusses the unintended consequences of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill.

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One Comment

  1. This article is not accurate it doesn’t take 3 hours to cross at Laredo World trade bridge. You all need to investigate before you publish negative information.
    If you need the data I will be glad to share with you. Thank you.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact nmahoney@freightwaves.com