LAREDO— Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28), U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Regional Administrator Robert Babcock, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Director of Field Operations for Laredo Field Office David Higgerson, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, and Nuevo Laredo Councilmember Patricia Ferrara held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the long-awaited renovations to the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge, also known as Convent Avenue Bridge I in Laredo. This opening is a part of the expansion and modernization of Laredo I & II Ports of Entry. Bridges I and II’s combined investments are over $100 million, one of the largest federal investments in Laredo.
Long overdue, the current Bridge I is over 70 years old and is the only pedestrian crossing between the downtown areas of Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulípas. This will allow for a complete renovation of the main building to optimize the space to improve pedestrian flow through the port.
U.S.-bound traffic statistics for 2016 show Bridge I had over 3.5 million pedestrian crossings and approximately 400,000 automobile crossings, with an estimated 1.3 million bus passengers. Prior to this renovation, the facility was in need of an updated design to improve wait times, waiting conditions and accessibility for visitors with disabilities or other physical impartments.
As part of this project, many critical improvements were made to increase efficiency at the port of entry. Specifically, the newly improved Convent Port of Entry made renovations to the Administration Building, increased the number of pedestrian processing lanes to 14, added a dedicated bicycle lane for optimal safety, reconfigured the primary car inspection lanes, upgraded and modernized the secondary area for further inspection, and modernized security systems so drivers and pedestrians can flow through the port faster.
All of these improvements will make the process of moving pedestrians and automobile passengers faster, safer and more efficient. This should reduce peak pedestrian wait times by 42% and reduce automobile peak wait times by 55%.
The renovations for Bridge I began in April 2016. Since the start of the construction, inbound pedestrian traffic has increased by 0.9. Laredo I will re-open to automobile traffic on 29 April 2018. Construction for the Juárez-Lincoln Point of Entry (Bridge II) renovation began in September 2015 and is expected to be completed by December 2018.
“Laredo is strategically located between two great powerhouses for commerce. I am pleased to see the completion of this project, as well as the current improvements that are already underway at the Juárez-Lincoln International Bridge, that represents an enormous $100 million federal investment in our community,” Congressman Cuellar said. “These international bridges provide a vital service to our area by increasing commerce and tourism and connecting families across the border. By enhancing traveler experience, shortening wait times and increasing both efficiency and security at our ports, we are investing heavily in a more modern and business-friendly Laredo that will aid us tremendously in our future growth. Families, travelers and businesses will be able to soon reap the benefits of these newly-improved layouts with state-of-the-art technology.”
“I would like to thank U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Regional Administrator Robert Babcock, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Director of Field Operations for Laredo Field Office David Higgerson, for their tremendous work on these projects, as well as Mayor Pete Saenz, Nuevo Laredo Councilmember Patricia Ferrara, and City Manager Horacio De Leon for their support,” continued Congressman Cuellar. “I would also like to recognize the previous Regional Administrator for the (GSA) Greater Southwest Region, Sylvia Hernandez, for her hard work and years of dedication that helped facilitate the opening of this bridge. I will continue to work with the City of Laredo, the City of Nuevo Laredo, CBP, Mexican Customs and the private sector on facilitating renovations on Bridge II.”