The World Trade International Bridge was built to alleviate traffic congestion on I-35 south through Laredo, Texas since only one lane is dedicated for commercial traffic at Juarez-Lincoln.
Project Type:Bridge Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:7,000 Length (mi):0.18
Economic Distress:1.00 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):68 Population Growth Rate (%):2.60
Employment Growth Rate (%):3.87 Market Size:66,730 Airport Travel Distance:6.86667 Topography:4
Region:Southwest State:TX County:County
City:Laredo Urban/Class Level:Metro Local Area:Laredo
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:27.597304 / -99.536921
Initial Study Date:1998 Post Constr. Study Date:2006
Constr. Start Date:1998 Constr. End Date:2000
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2000 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):107,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):149,618,241
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||64.84||62.31||127.15|
|Output (in $M's)||154.65||148.63||303.28|
This commercial-only toll bridge between Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and Laredo, Texas, was completed in 2000 to alleviate significant congestion characterized by border crossing times of several hours or more, lines of commercial vehicles stretching several miles into downtown commercial areas, and a dangerous mix of commercial vehicles with passenger vehicles and pedestrians. The $107.4 million (2000$) project is said to have facilitated increased international trade that subsequently created 4,400 jobs on the US side of the border.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The Laredo port of entry sits on Interstate 35, a key international trade route that connects northern Mexico's manufacturing hub, Monterrey, to Ontario, Canada via San Antonio (150 miles north), Dallas, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City, Des Moines, Minneapolis and Duluth. Laredo is also served by an international airport.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Port of Laredo was the United States' first official port of entry with Mexico, established in 1851, just a few years after Texas was annexed by the United States. Once a sleepy border town, Laredo's cross border traffic boom began in 1987 when Mexico joined the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT, which has since become the World Trade Organization, WTO). By 2000, Laredo had become the busiest inland port in North America, accounting for more than 40% of all goods entering the US. The enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as well as having thriving economies on both sides of the US-Mexico border, strained border crossing infrastructure.
Laredo's economy is dominated by the transportation sector, which accounts for approximately 17% of employment, compared with less than 6% in the nation as a whole. Though there is little manufacturing and traditional warehousing/distribution, demand for warehousing space is driven by the ?drayage system.? The drayage system requires carriers/shippers from the U.S. or Mexico to deliver their cargo to the border zone (which extends several miles beyond the Laredo City limits) and hire short-haul carriers to take it across the border where long-haul trucks pick up the cargo and deliver the load to the destination. By the late 1990's, Laredo was adding a million square feet of industrial/warehousing space per year, reaching more than 36 million square feet by 2003.
In 1999, just two Laredo bridges permitted commercial crossings - the downtown Juarez-Lincoln Bridge and the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity Bridge - with the next nearest crossings more than 80 miles away and lacking access to I-35.
Before the construction of the World Trade Bridge, the right lane of I-35 was dedicated to commercial truck traffic awaiting necessary tolling, weighing and inspections before crossing the border. Though processing each truck too only a few seconds, the sheer volume of traffic resulted in a line of commercial trucks that often stretched more than 5 miles into downtown Laredo. This traffic blocked access to local businesses and created a dangerous mix of heavy trucks, passenger cars and pedestrians.
The eight-lane, commercial-only toll bridge was built to prevent the long delays that negatively impacted shippers, manufacturers, residents and tourists, as well as to eliminate the dangerous mix of commercial and non-commercial traffic. The bridge design incorporates Automated Vehicle Identification (AVI) and Weigh in Motion technology, which allows vehicles to pass without stopping. Though the previous system required trucks to stop for just a few seconds, the large number of trucks utilizing the bridge resulted in regular delays of two to three hours. The bridge design also incorporated a cuing system and feeder roads to keep the approximately 350 vehicles in line at a given time moving continuously.
This complex project required the coordination of federal, state and local jurisdictions of both nations. Substantive discussions began in early 1991. After public meetings and environmental review, a funding agreement for the project was established in 1995. Due to its international nature, the bridge required an unusual financing and ownership structure. The City of Laredo owns one half of the bridge ? the half spanning the US-side of the border. The city financed its half in cooperation with Webb County, and the city operates the US-side of the bridge collecting all out-bound tolls. The side of the bridge in Mexico was financed and is owned by Mexico's Federal government.
The US-portion of the World Trade Bridge cost approximately $107.4 million, split 35/65 between the State of Texas and US federal government funding. The federal contribution was comprised of a discretionary grant from the FHWA National Corridor Planning and Development Program and short- and long-term State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) loans. The bridge is owned and operated by the City of Laredo.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The World Trade Bridge eliminated the multi-mile back-ups on I-35, ended the dangerous mix of truck/car/pedestrian traffic at the border crossing, and significantly reduced commercial border crossing times such that drayage trucks were able to make several trips each day instead of just a few. The typical commercial crossing that previously took two to three hours now takes five minutes from the time the vehicle leaves the Interstate to the time it crosses into Mexico. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that in a typical year, some 1.3 million trucks pass over the bridge southbound, while 1.1 million pass over northbound.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
Laredo is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Between 1960 and 1990, the city's population doubled. Growing at an average rate of around 3% per year throughout the last decade, population reached 217,500 in 2007. Laredo is part of a greater bi-national region that includes Nuevo Laredo, just across the US border with Mexico in the state of Tamaulipas. Nuevo Laredo has also grown rapidly, reaching a population of 356,000 in 2005 (INEGI).
Between 1999 and 2001, Laredo gained 4,400 jobs, including 1,600 in the transportation and public utility sector which a 2001 FHWA economic development study attributes to the bridge opening. During the same period, unemployment in Laredo declined from 7.9% to 6.5% while the Texas and national economies were beginning to slow. For comparison, during the same period Texas employment increased by 3.7% and US employment increased by just 0.1%, and unemployment rates rose as people entered the workforce more quickly than jobs were being created.
In 2005, the bridge generated more than $38 million in toll revenues for the City of Laredo, which is able to use that revenue not only to operate and maintain the bridge, but also to provide other city services without increasing the tax burden to residents.
The project was built in an environment of high employment and population growth, which makes it somewhat difficult to pinpoint the project's impact. Furthermore, fluctuations in international trade, diplomatic and trade relations (particularly the changing nature of NAFTA), as well as national changes in the Mexican and US economies, are powerful forces that coincided with the opening of the bridge, and likely had a greater influence on economic growth in the region than did the bridge. However, without the bridge, the region would not have been as well positioned to take advantage of these broader changes.
Laredo Development Foundation
Case Study Developed by Economic Development Research Group, Inc.