Mexican official: Country to fast-track Presidio/Ojinaga bridge upgrades

Photo by Brad Newton

PRESIDIO — After years in the works, the upgraded bridge at the Presidio/Ojinaga Port of Entry could soon be complete.

The expansion will see the port double its lanes, from one lane in either direction to two. The Texas Department of Transportation has completed most of its work on the Presidio side after starting work in 2018, but the Ojinaga portion of the bridge project has so far lagged.

Now, that could be changing. In a social media post last week, Juan Carlos Loera de la Rosa, the envoy for Chihuahua State under new Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said that he visited with Mexican federal officials in Mexico City and that officials “agreed to push this work as one of the main [road and bridge projects] for this year.”

“We continue to insist that CAPUFE” — the Mexican agency akin to the Department of Transportation — “conclude the extension of the international bridge to Presidio, Texas,” he wrote, in Spanish. He described the bridgework as “undoubtedly a great positive impact for the border.”

In Presidio, excited officials quickly picked up on the news. “It appears the Presidio/Ojinaga International Bridge expansion now officially has funding from Mexico,” Mayor John Ferguson wrote in his own social media post.

So far, the details of the Mexican plan are unclear. Loera did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Nor did officials at CAPUFE, the Mexican agency whose name translates to “Federal Roads and Bridges.” In a news release earlier this month, though, CAPUFE did tout its work in expanding road and bridge infrastructure. The agency said it has given 360 million pesos in road dollars to local city governments, including 102 million pesos earmarked for international bridges in Chihuahua and elsewhere.

On both sides of the border, an expanded Presidio/Ojinaga bridge has been in the works for years. Presidio County first started discussing expanding the bridge around 2011 — at one point even floating the idea of making it a toll bridge. But Presidio city leaders worried the toll would be “another tax on our citizens,” and the project devolved into “kind of a boondoggle,” said Presidio Mayor John Ferguson. A few years later, the Texas Department of Transportation took over the bridgework, making the Presidio/Ojinaga bridge the only TxDOT-owned port-of-entry crossing in the state.

An expanded bridge could mean fewer delays and wait times for everyone from daily commuters to customs workers. As TxDOT finishes work on the U.S. portion of the bridge, it’s also been running a study on improving travel and trade through the U.S. Route 67 corridor, which could mean everything from expanded lanes on the highway south of Marfa to increased train traffic through Presidio.

Jennifer Wright, a spokesman for TxDOT, stressed that the international bridgework was not related to the 67 Master Plan — noting that TxDOT has historically been in the business of “playing catch up” rather than “expecting future demand.” Still, she said, doubling the bridge’s capacity would certainly “ease congestion at the port of entry.”

Viewed from the Mexican side, the bridge improvements could also signal that Mexico plans to see more travelers pass through the Presidio/Ojinaga port of entry. Mexican officials have long floated the idea of opening a new “transmigrante” corridor through the binational community.

If that plan ultimately goes through, a larger bridge could help mitigate impacts from those traveling merchants, said Ferguson. “Heaven forbid, if we were to mix in this transmigrante traffic with the way things are going right now, it’d be a huge traffic jam every day,” he said.