Texas town pins hopes on new truck crossing, but traffic off to slow start

TORNILLO, Texas (Border Report) – Tornillo residents are excited about the reopening of a regional border crossing to commercial trucks.

The Marcelino Serna Port of Entry began processing trucks coming over from Mexico last week after a six-year hiatus. The re-opening coincided with the completion of the new Samalayuca-Juarez toll highway routing traffic toward Tornillo. The plan is to draw some commercial truck traffic away from heavily populated areas in the El Paso, Texas-Juarez, Mexico corridor.

“It is definitely going to bring business. This is a small town where our main focus is agriculture and trucking,” said Tornillo resident Marco Trevizo. “I think this will bring business to these little stores that need the business.”

But truck traffic has been slow in the two weeks following the re-opening. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say it will take time for truckers and assembly plant managers to adjust their routes.

“Traffic was light but all systems were functional and operated well. We anticipate traffic will grow in days and weeks to come as our trade partners adjust routes and begin using the facility,” CBP said in a statement to Border Report. “The port has much to offer, and we believe it will only be a matter of time before traffic flows grow.”

Laura Guerrero, an assistant manager at a Tornillo gas station, also is hopeful that more trucks will pass through the town and drivers will stop for fuel, soft drinks and food.

But she worries the violence across the border in Juarez’s lower valley may discourage some from using the crossing. She’s not the only one.

Isela Molina, president of the Juarez Chamber of Industry, said truckers are worried about their safety because of last week’s violence. A rolling gun battle that apparently began at the Samalayuca-Juarez highway toll booth claimed the lives of four men.

Isela Molina, president, Juarez Chamber of Industry (Border Report photo)

“We demand security. It is very important that the 30-kilometer (20 miles) stretch leading to the crossing be safe,” Molina said. “Any uncertainty about using this crossing must be dispelled because it will be very important to the region’s economy. We need that not only the integrity of the merchandise going across the border is safe, but also that persons using that highway are safe.”

She said industry officials remain hopeful that the Marcelino Serna border crossing will prevent trucks coming from the interior of Mexico from passing through Juarez on their way north, then avoid crossing El Paso on their way to the interior of the United States.

Chihuahua Deputy Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas on Monday reassured people on both sides of the border that the highway and the border crossing are safe.

“We will be working full-time on this because border crossings are very important to the economy of Juarez,” he said.

(Juarez freelance photojournalist Roberto Delgado contributed to this report)


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