Measuring Border Delay and Crossing Times at the US–Mexico Border
Automated Crossing and Wait Time Measurement
CHAPTER 3: PHARR-REYNOSA INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE
The Lower Rio Grande Valley is located in the southernmost tip of Texas, bordering the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. The region is made up of four counties: Starr County, Hidalgo County, Willacy County, and Cameron County. As of January 1, 2010, the Texas State Data Center estimated the population of the Lower Rio Grande Valley at 1,167,121 with a 26 percent increase since the year 2000. Among the Councils of Governments’ population estimates, the Lower Rio Grande Valley has Texas’ second largest growth rate, exceeded only by after the Capital Area (Austin). The largest city in the region is Brownsville, followed by McAllen and Harlingen. Pharr is located in McAllen-Edinburg-Mission Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Texas is the third largest producer of citrus fruit in the United States, the majority of which is grown in the Rio Grande Valley. This and other agribusiness and the emergence of the maquiladora industry have caused a surge of industrial development along the border. International POEs are crucial for the development of the region and day-to-day operations of the bi-national region. Six operating international bridges handle freight in the valley. Figure 8 illustrates these six bridges extending from Veterans International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas at the eastern end to the Roma-Ciudad Miguel Alemán International Bridge in Roma, Texas at the western end.
The FAST program allows pre-certified shipments to use a special lane and receive expedited inspection at the CBP FAST lane primary inspection booth. There are three POEs where a FAST lane exists: Veteran’s International Bridge, Free Trade International Bridge, and the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.
Figure 9 shows the distribution of 2011 US-bound truck crossing volume for the Lower Rio Grande Valley POEs. The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge handled 93 percent of the total trucks in the region, followed by Veterans International Bridge, in Brownsville, Texas, with 5 percent.
Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge is located in Hidalgo County, in the middle of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It was constructed to relieve congestion on the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa Bridge due to commercial traffic demand. The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge connects US 281 in Pharr, Texas, to the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, which is an important industrial city in northeastern Mexico. In Mexico, there is a direct connector road from the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge to Mexico’s Highway 2, which connects Reynosa to Matamoros and provides access to the Reynosa airport. These roads allow traffic using the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge to bypass the heavily urbanized areas around the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa Bridge. The Pharr-Reynosa Bridge is 3.1 miles long and elevated to protect surrounding wetlands and farmlands. Figure 10 shows the location of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa Bridge with major highway connections.
The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge has a four-lane cross section, with three US-bound lanes and one southbound lane, on the US portion of the bridge. This crossing serves passenger as well as commercial vehicles. Truck crossings at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge reached a peak in 2007 with close to 500,000 crossings that year. International truck volumes started to decline in 2008 due to the economic downturn, as shown in figure 11.
In 2011, the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge was the second most important commercial crossing in Texas, after Laredo’s World Trade Bridge. It handled a total of 452,821 trucks from Reynosa into Pharr, with an average of 37,735 trucks per month. Figure 12 shows that March, June, and November were the months of highest volume in 2011, while December registered the lowest truck volume.
The border crossing process for commercial vehicles entering the United States requires that vehicles stop at several points. The time it takes a truck to cross depends on the time spent at each of these points of inspection, toll collection, and the time it takes to move from one station to the next, which is a function of traffic volume and number of available booths.
The US-bound commercial border crossing process begins at the Mexican Export Lot on the southern side of the border. After clearing export customs on the Mexican side, a truck proceeds to the tollbooth operated by Caminos y Puentes Federales de Ingresos y Servicios Conexos (CAPUFE). Once the driver of a truck pays tolls through an electronic toll-collection system or manually, the truck then crosses the 3.1-mile long bridge. Immediately upon entering the United States, the truck continues to the Federal Inspection Compound. Entrance to the Federal Inspection Compound is through the primary inspection booths. At these primary inspection booths, a CBP officer determines whether the truck requires any secondary inspection and if so directs the driver to it, or otherwise instructs the driver to proceed to the exit. CBP gives final clearance to exit the Federal Inspection Compound at booths at the exit of the premises. After leaving the Federal compound, the truck proceeds to the BSIF.
The BSIF is located at the north side of the Federal Inspection Compound and is connected by an access road. Weigh-in-Motion sensors measure the weight of every truck that travels on this access road. Upon leaving the access road and entering the BSIF, trucks continue moving toward an inspection shed. Drivers of trucks departing the inspection shed are instructed by the DPS officials to proceed either to the exit of the facility or to a secondary safety inspection. Figure 13 shows an aerial view of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge.
The Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge commercial crossing operates from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Monday through Friday and from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday. The City of Pharr owns the US side of the bridge and the Mexican side is owned by the Government of Mexico and operated by CAPUFE. In January 2009, the City of Pharr widened the northbound approaches from the bridge to the truck and vehicle booths and re-striped the northbound lanes to dedicate FAST lanes on the bridge. CBP has designated the two right-most lanes to process FAST shipments. However, the booths for all the other lanes are also capable of processing FAST shipments. Depending on approaching truck volume, CBP may instruct FAST trucks to go to non-FAST booths or non-FAST trucks to the booths of the two right-most lanes to lower the wait time.previous | next