Cars and other passenger vehicles will now only be allowed to cross northbound from Mexico into the U.S. over the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge on weekends as officials in Pharr continue to grapple with ways to reduce traffic on the bridge.
As part of a series of pilot programs aimed at alleviating recent months of truck backups at the bridge, cars and passenger vehicles can now only cross northbound on the bridge from 4 p.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday.
Commercial trucks will continue to travel through the bridge in both directions every day of the week, and small empty trucks are authorized to cross through the car and passenger vehicle lanes from Monday to Friday, a strategy that is expected to relieve an estimated 250 to 300 trucks per day. But this strategy is not new, so much as an extension of previous pilot programs the bridge has initiated since March, when President Trump threatened to close the border, followed by the reassignment of hundreds of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers from ports of entry to assist Border Patrol agents with immigration issues.
“These pilot programs are being implemented as a result of the reduced Customs and Border Protection personnel at the port and deployed to the Southern border as mandated by the federal government,” Pharr officials said in a statement on Tuesday.
Traffic at the Pharr Bridge is nothing new — federal staffing shortages have been a challenge for Pharr officials for years. But recently, following the reassignment of customs officers, Pharr officials have, in cooperation with CBP, sought to implement creative alternatives in hopes of dealing with the traffic.
An early pilot program in April gave priority to trucks, since the Pharr bridge is the only full-service commercial bridge in the area. The bridge makes roughly $13 million annually in revenues, and with a heavy flow of traffic every day, officials wanted to ensure traffic moved as smoothly as possible, despite headwinds from Washington.
“We’re trying everything we can to keep everything moving, and we’ve already gotten a good response to this new pilot program,” Bridge Director Luiz Bazan said at the time.
Now, Bazan and staff at the bridge are hoping other pilot programs will help the ongoing issues.
“This schedule will remain in effect indefinitely,” according to a statement Tuesday from bridge officials. “All pilot programs will be reviewed by bridge staff, trade partners and relevant stakeholders to discuss feedback regarding the programs, make adjustments if necessary, and possibly plan for other contingencies.”