Donna closer to southbound commercial traffic at international bridge

The path to commercial traffic eventually crossing at the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge cleared another hurdle in February.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan signed a donations acceptance agreement last month that allows the city to “facilitate the proposed donation of outbound commercial vehicle inspection facilities, including supporting infrastructure, equipment and technologies.”

The federal document formally allows the city to provide inspection infrastructure necessary for empty commercial trucks to cross at the international bridge into Mexico as soon as January 2019. The program in part allows the city to donate the improved commercial lanes to the federal government.

“We are going to pay for operations (at the bridge) for actually two years until the federal government puts it into their budget,” said bridge Director Marga Lopez.

Currently, only passenger vehicles pass through the port of entry in Donna.

“It’ll offer another alternative to make commercial traffic more fluid by offering empties (empty commercial vehicles) to go through our port of entry,” Lopez said.

Infrastructure improvements on the commercial southbound lanes will include fencing, an inspection booth, an exit booth and canopies, according to Lopez.

Last year, the city received approval for the donation of northbound commercial inspection facilities, according to a Customs and Border Protection news release. The bridge will eventually be equipped with “state of the art” technology in commercial lanes that include facial recognition and non-intrusive inspection of all commercial vehicles by way of a radio frequency identification-enabled cards, which will contain shipment and driver information, Lopez previously told the city council in January.

The city now awaits a state letter of authority, another formal authorization, from the Texas Department of Transportation. The city will then be able to accept sealed bids for the proposed infrastructure improvements on the southbound commercial lanes.

Officials have sought allowing commercial traffic to cross in Donna since the bridge’s inception in 2010.

Construction on southbound commercial lanes could begin as soon as August 2018; fully loaded commercial trucks headed northbound could cross as soon as November 2019.