A bridge known more as a crossing for tourists to buy Mexican curios and medications at border pharmacies is gearing up to become more of a player in commercial and industrial traffic.
The Progreso International Bridge is making a $20-million investment to double the capacity of its commercial lanes on the east side of the main span. It will also be modernizing facilities and developing its industrial park. The Progreso Bridge is under private ownership, so the sizable investment isn’t coming from government resources.
The expansion of commercial lanes is expected to double the bridge’s truck traffic. The Progreso Bridge has several available acres of land in its adjacent industrial park. It will be in a better position to utilize that potential with an increase in commercial traffic. An added element is that facilities for U.S. Customs, the Border Patrol and other federal agencies are being brought up to current technological standards.
All of the improvements will reduce crossing times while also increasing safety and efficiency.
“It’s going to expand our market,” said Bridge Director Marga Lopez of the expected surge in commercial traffic. “It’s going to open up a whole new sector of imports. We’ll be able to take in more produce that’s perishable.”
Improvements Benefit Mid-Valley
A bridge popular for pedestrian crossings into Mexico had already boosted those capabilities before moving on improving its commercial capabilities. An upgrade of its pedestrian area was completed in June 2020.
Pedestrian crossings dropped mightily in the spring of 2020 but that decline was only temporary. The improved bridge facilities, when combined with a public eagerness for normal activities, got the numbers back up quickly. May 2021 pedestrian crossings totaled 84,664, which was better than the May 2019 number of 82,859.
It’s not just about pedestrians at the bridge. Progreso International currently serves 15 grain export companies. It ranks first among all international bridges on the southern border for truck grain exports. About 70 percent of its commercial trucks are double tandem, meaning two trailers per truck for a single fee. This is a rarity among ports of entry along the border.
The Progreso Bridge sees over $215 million worth of exports every year as well as over $150 million of imports. The latter is sure to increase dramatically with the increase of inbound commercial lanes and improved refrigeration facilities. It will allow more types of produce to be imported from Mexico. Avocados, pineapples, melons and tomatoes may be among the produce items that will more commonly cross at the Progreso bridge.
It’s all good news for both the bridge and nearby Weslaco. The Mid-Valley city is developing its own industrial park to include more agricultural commodities and products.
“The expanding of the Progreso International Bridge couldn’t have come at a more perfect time for Weslaco,” said Steven Valdez, the executive director of the Weslaco Economic Development Corporation. “With the EDC’s recent purchase of 149 acres, which is a direct shot to the Progreso Bridge on FM 1015, companies that rely on products from Mexico can now transport more efficiently.”
Room For Growth
In a recent drive on bridge grounds, Lopez pointed to areas where new and improved export and cold storage docks will be located along with new inspection booths for cargo. It will consequently boost the flow of traffic.
Lopez highlighted the open spaces she hopes will eventually be filled by warehouses and distribution centers.
“Of all the bridges, we have the most land available,” she said.
In looking at what’s happening in Weslaco with its own industrial park, Lopez sees both a connection and a mutual benefit for all in the Mid-Valley.
“We want them to build as many warehouses as possible,” she said. “Anything that happens in Weslaco in regards to transportation is good for the bridge.”