Editorial: New international bridge should help facilitate trade, ease congestion elsewhere

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Cameron County received a Presidential Permit on Monday, June 3, 2024, to build the Flor de Mayo International Bridge. (Courtesy: Cameron County)

News that Cameron County has received a State Department permit to build a new international bridge is welcome. The Flor de Mayo International Bridge will run from Flor de Mayo Avenue in Matamoros to West Alton Gloor Boulevard in northwest Brownsville, which is a heavy growth area. It also will help relieve congestion at other ports of entry, where wait times often exceed an hour.

The planned four-lane bridge will be designed to handle mostly passenger vehicles and pedestrians; if it draws such traffic it could reduce congestion at other international crossings that were intended primarily for freight trucks.

The bridge also creates a new route for Mexican vacationers who wish to visit South Padre Island and other tourist destinations during the summer, Christmas and Easter holiday seasons, and facilitate daily business and retail trade. It also can offer Mexican business travelers a more direct route to airports in Brownsville and Harlingen.

The potential new business the span could bring is welcome news in the Rio Grande Valley, where chronic drought and lack of water has dealt harsh blows to the agricultural economy that still heavily supports the region. The recent loss of our entire sugar cane industry and reduced harvests of other crops has cost the regions millions of dollars in recent years.

Securing the presidential permit for the new crossing is a significant step and the culmination of years of design work and negotiation to garner support not only from U.S. officials in Washington, but also in Mexico City, since our southern neighbor will be responsible for the construction on the Mexican side.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz deserve special mention for their support at a time when many people within their party advocate for shutting down our southern border completely.

To that end, they and other officials need to continue promoting the project, especially in light of the pending change of president in Mexico and the possible change in our own country. Our two countries have several issues of contention, from immigration to drug and human smuggling and even disputes regarding Mexico’s compliance noncompliance the Rio Grande water-sharing treaty between the two countries. It is hoped that hostilities related to such issues don’t jeopardize the cooperation that will be necessary to build the bridge and fund its operation.

Officials also need to be vigilant that any future plans regarding continued construction of a border wall take the planned bridge into account.

The work is only starting on Flor de Mayo and it will take years to complete. The first major steps include working with the Army Corps of Engineers and private contractors on the design and conduction of environmental impact studies. Securing the presidential permit reflects that much work already has been done. That should mean much of the future planning already has begun, and delays will be held to a minimum.

It’s good to see that despite the ongoing debate regarding border issues, key officials still recognize the need to facilitate trade and ease congestion at our ports of entry, and gave this new crossing a green light.