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"From the perspective of the State of Texas, the construction of the World Trade Bridge was vitally needed from a transportation standpoint because of the congestion at the downtown Juarez-Lincoln Bridge (City of Laredo Bridge #2) at milepost marker #0 at Interstate Highway (IH) 35. In 1999, the downtown Juarez-Lincoln Bridge and the Laredo-Colombia Solidarity Bridge were the only major commercial crossing bridges between Texas and Mexico in the Laredo area. The nearest other crossings were about 80 miles (130km) away and they did not have easy access to IH 35. Laredo is the largest inland port and ranks first in commercial traffic. Also, Laredo is ranked in the top five US/Mexico crossings in vehicles, passengers, pedestrians, buses and trucks and this crossing was vastly overloaded. Previously, traffic congestion on IH 35 approaching the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge was backed up as long as 4 miles, which frequently resulted and caused traffic on Interstate 35 to come to a standstill for hours at a time. In addition, the back ups, which were in the center of town, created additional problems for local traffic.
Multi jurisdictional planning and coordination had been underway for several years to construct a new crossing and TxDOT participated in many meetings, agreements, construction inspections and similar activities. On April 15, 2000, the World Trade Bridge (City of Laredo Bridge #4) was opened to commercial traffic leaving the downtown bridge for non-commercial traffic. Because the World Trade Bridge accommodates so much truck traffic, extra pavement strength and durability has been incorporated into the design. As many as 3,800 vehicles per day were crossing by the summer of 2001.
The new crossing required various approach roads, frontage roads, connectors and service roads and the cost of all of the various roadway components exceeded $107.4 million. Completion of the last of these original facilities will be in place by this summer. Presently, it is 99 percent complete. The State of Texas provided about 35 percent of the total cost including short and long-term State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) loans made available by the state and federal government. Regular federal aid amounted to another 65 percent comprised of a discretionary grant from the FHWA National Corridor Planning and Development Program, and SIB loans, both short and long-term. The City of Laredo and other local government sources together provided the right of way (ROW) property and easements necessary for the construction of the project. The City of Laredo also participated with short and long-term SIB loans.
The State of Texas has been very pleased with the transportation results. The four-mile backups are gone and typical crossings now take about 5 minutes between the time the vehicle leaves the Interstate main lane and the time the vehicle crosses into Mexico. Local traffic moves easier and faster, while stop and go related accidents have also decreased significantly. Pedestrian and transit movements on the downtown bridge are more convenient and safer while highway related businesses seem to be expanding and new businesses are being opened.
I have had the pleasure of accompanying numerous elected and appointed public figures through this project. Based on their comments, my own observations and, most importantly, comments of the people who live and work here, I consider this project a truly great civic accomplishment and one in which I take great pride both from a personal standpoint and as a public official representing the State of Texas".
|Luis. A. Ramirez, P.E
Laredo District Engineer
January 28, 2002