Cruz, Cuellar celebrate passage of construction project permit reform for border bridges

Proposed expansion project will add 10 lanes to the World Trade Bridge in Laredo

LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar on Thursday celebrated the passage of their proposal to reform the presidential process for new and expanded border bridges at Laredo, Eagle Pass and Brownsville.

The celebration was held during a press conference at the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, one of the ports of entry slated for expansion.

A proposal would add 10 lanes to the bridge, bringing the total to 18, enabling more trade with Mexico.

“Bridges serve as economic lifelines for our border communities, facilitating international trade, commerce, and tourism,” said Cuellar, a Democrat. “However, drivers and truckers often report lines stretching for miles to cross, delaying the transportation of goods and costing our economy millions. We need to expand our ports of entry, and these changes to the Presidential permitting process will ensure that proposed construction projects at the World Trade Bridge, Laredo-Colombia Solidarity International Bridge, and other bridges along the U.S.-Mexico border avoid unnecessary construction delays.”

Cruz and Cuellar led a bipartisan effort to reform the presidential permitting process for border bridges. President Joe Biden recently signed the proposal into law in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024.

“Every year, Texas and Mexico have roughly $800 billion in trade and commerce that comes across this border. That’s jobs in Texas. That’s jobs in Mexico. That’s the lifeblood of South Texas,” said Cruz, a Republican. “And unfortunately, for the past three years, expansion of these bridges has been delayed by bureaucratic roadblocks. … So, then we began drafting legislation, I introduced it in the Senate, to expedite these bridges. We had it adopted in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and then it was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. … So, we’re here to celebrate a tremendous bipartisan victory, a victory for Texas. I want to thank all of the stakeholders throughout South Texas who are here. The community in Laredo worked hard to make this happen.”

Presidential permits are required for construction projects at border crossings. Obtaining a permit requires an environmental review, often taking years to complete. Language secured by Cuellar and Cruz would direct the president to issue conditional permits for projects while environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act are ongoing.

Laredo is the nation’s largest port of entry, with 7.6 million total vehicle crossings in FY23. The World Trade Bridge has experienced significant increases in commercial traffic since opening in 2000 and saw 2.5 million northbound commercial crossings in FY23.

You can watch the press conference in the video player below:

About the Authors

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

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