McAllen awards $3.8M design contract for Anzalduas Bridge construction

McALLEN — City commissioners on Monday awarded a $3.8 million architectural contract to the McAllen firm S&B Infrastructure, a year-long process that is expected to map out the construction of infrastructure to accommodate commercial truck traffic traveling north and southbound over the Anzalduas International Bridge.

“Considering all the red tape involved, that’s pretty reasonable,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said of the price tag. He added: “This is a huge step to getting full commercial on our bridges.”

But that price represents just 7.12% of the $54 million city staff estimates the total construction at the Anzalduas bridge will cost by the time it’s completed, and city officials hope that funding will come from various sources.

The bridge in south Mission that opened in 2009 facilitates mostly passenger vehicles, and in 2016 began allowing empty commercial trucks to travel south into Mexico. While the necessary upgrades to accommodate full-service commercial traffic are still likely years away, the overhaul could be a boon for the bridge and the trade industry. Distribution facilities fill the area around the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge — the only full-service commercial bridge in the county — and a similar surge of trade-related construction could come to the area around the Anzalduas bridge.

But the bridge has had mixed results attracting trucks since it began allowing them to cross in August 2016. There have been some significant increases from one month to the next, but the volume has dipped this year.

The empty commercial truck traffic heading south into Mexico has been down every month this year, from January to November, compared to those same months the year before. There were 1,590 empty trucks that crossed south in November 2019 compared to 2,033 in November 2018, a 22% drop. In October 2019, 2,048 trucks crossed southbound compared to 2,937 in November 2018, a 30% dip.

One question Darling had at a meeting on Monday for the bridge’s board of directors was about the hours southbound trucks are allowed to cross. The operating hours depend on Mexican officials, and Darling was curious if those hours would be extended.

“We’re working on the hours,” said Rigo Villarreal, superintendent of bridges.