PHARR — Decisions in Washington in recent months have left officials running the international bridge in Pharr in precarious positions. Wait times crossing from Mexico exceeded single digits in the spring and the bridge has had to adjust its hours of operation and change traffic flows.
Passenger vehicles have not been allowed to cross the bridge northbound Monday through Friday aside from a two-hour window in the mornings, rendering the bridge a mostly northbound commercial truck crossing on weekdays, a change implemented by the city and federal authorities in July.
The moves have worked. In July, 55,450 trucks crossed the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, up from 52,434 during that same month last year. It had been three months since the last increase, ever since President Trump in late March threatened to close the border. The Trump administration then reassigned hundreds of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers from ports of entries along the border to assist the Border Patrol with increased migration duties.
In April, Pharr officials pleaded firmly for the return of the CBP officers, perplexed at the Trump administration’s decision to reassign the officers. The following months at the bridge were tough: April saw a 5,389 drop in truck crossings at the bridge compared with April 2018; May saw a 3,166 decline in trucks crossings compared to May 2018; and 1,952 less trucks crossed in June compared with the same month last year.
And in the most recent results released on Wednesday, July saw a 3,016 increase from the same month last year. The city has also managed to continue making toll revenues from the bridge. In July, the city collected $1.19 million in tolls compared to $1.13 million in July 2018, and the Fiscal Year-to-date toll revenues at the bridge have already exceeded the same period in the previous fiscal year, which runs October through September every year.
Car traffic at the bridge, however, has continued to decline since May, including a significant drop in July. There were 43,198 cars that crossed the bridge in July compared to 64,011 in July 2018, a 20,813 fall. June saw 3,610 fewer cars cross the bridge than June 2018; May saw 10,550 fewer cars cross than May 2018; and April saw 12,524 fewer cars cross than in the same month the previous year.
But revenues never dipped, for which bridge board members have complimented Luis Bazan, the city’s bridge director. And with produce season beginning in October, the board members and city officials are bracing for the busy season.
Bazan at a board meeting on Wednesday said the changes that have recently been implemented at the bridge will remain for the foreseeable future, but officials will continue to evaluate the changes regularly and potentially return the traffic flows to normal at some point.
For now, though, the changes have helped.
“Wait times have totally improved,” Bazan said.