First of its kind toll system now in place
Pharr International Bridge Director Luis Bazan remembers receiving a call from the Pharr City Manager in 2016. Bazan was boarding a flight destined for a conference to sell the bridge to potential costumers. The call was quick, the message was to brace himself because the City of Pharr was going to create their own toll system.
A new one-of-a-kind system at the Pharr International Bridge will now allow crossings to happen at a quicker rate than before and help keep data to learn what commodities are crossing the most.
The partnership between the Cameron County Regional Mobility Board (CCRMA), which created the new software will allow consumers to go from the bridge to a toll road without having to stop and pay along the way which will make crossings more efficient.
“We could have easily bought an existing system,” Bazan said. “But we decided to take it in a different direction.”
The new system went live Sept. 18 with a complete modernization of the existing system from lane equipment to the consumer web access. Customers will be able to download transaction information and keep up-to-date records of all crossings.
The CCRMA, which was in charge of building the new toll system collaborated with industry leaders to develop the new toll system for an international bridge. The primary purpose of the partnership between the City of Pharr and CCRMA is to leverage the local expertise of the CCRMA in toll systems and create interoperability benefits for its customers traveling from the Pharr International Bridge to the Port of Brownsville via the SH 550 toll road.
The collection process will benefit both partners.
“We appreciate the opportunity the City of Pharr gave us,” Pete Sepulveda Jr., Executive Director of CCRMA said. “I think because we were local, we were able to provide a better, competitive, innovative, customized toll system that will help the City of Pharr take the bridge to the next level.”
On a daily basis 9,500 vehicles cross the Pharr International Bridge. Five thousand of those vehicles come across with different commodities producing revenue for the City of Pharr. For the fiscal year July 2017 – 2018 northbound trucks at the bridge totaled roughly 52,000, an increase of 4.8 percent from the previous year. Total revenues for the bridge in the same fiscal year was $1.135 million.
By 2020 the City of Pharr will build new infrastructure projects inside the federal port of entry. More than $30 million will be invested to benefit cross-border traffic through Pharr.
The Pharr International Bridge is also the No. 1 produce bridge in the nation.
United States Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15) applauded the new improved toll system and stressed the importance of the Pharr International Bridge as a whole.
“The bridge crosses 60 percent of the nation's produce which equates to $33 billion in annual trade in the City of Pharr,” he said. “I think residents of the Valley like to see success and the Pharr Bridge is one of the most successful infrastructure projects in the area.”
Gonzalez also said that there is always an uncommon ground between both major parties in the United States Congress but one thing all 36 members from Texas agree on is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) needs to continue helping Texans.
“We know that cooperation and collaboration is better than harmful rhetoric and solutions that are developed in bad faith,” Gonzalez said.
He stressed when NAFTA was established, the goal was to promote trade and bring barriers down. Communities in the Rio Grande Valley and Texas as a whole have benefitted greatly. Not only Mexico crosses products. There are countries in Central America and South Korea that use the bridge to bring products to the United States.
The top trading partner besides Mexico are China, Japan, South Korea and Germany. The congressman was recently in Asia and plans to bring delegations from each of the countries to show that the Pharr International Bridge is open for business.
“The Pharr International Bridge is expected to grow in the next 3-to-5 years,” Gonzalez said. “It is amazing growth that is exponential and we will see the fruits for many years to come and for many generations to come.”
The new system offers many improvements, such as:
Customer Online Web improvements
Real-time transaction activity – customers can see their transactions throughout the day to better manage their business.
Hassle-free credit card payments – customers pay online and immediately are emailed a proof of payment. They can even set up auto replenishment to make payments when their balances hit certain amounts.
Fleet management – Customers can now add and remove vehicles as their business needs and schedules change, without having to visit the bridge office for these changes.
Customized statement dates – Customers can download statements with customizable dates without having to wait for the end of the month.
Interoperability Convenience – Customers can now travel to the Port of Brownsville and use the SH 550 toll road with their Pharr Tag and manage all of it within their Pharr account. This is the first international bridge in the State of Texas to offer this service to its customers.
Lane system improvements:
The Pharr Bridge System now uses state of the art laser technology to not only count vehicle axles as they cross the bridge, but also measure the shape, width, height, and length of the vehicles.
It uses photocell technology to capture both axles touching the ground and those that are lifted off the ground.
It will have photo technology that will capture photos of every axle of a transaction to be stored in the system for easy audibility for the Pharr staff.
It will have license plate reader technology to identify license plates of vehicles as they cross the bridge.
Pharr Internal Control Improvements:
In a growing world of government transparency, the new toll system has much more available controls to improve the reporting of cash, check, and credit card payments
Improved controls around cash handling and deposits
Improved reports on customer and traffic trends
Employee monitoring and audit ability reports of all transactions