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Mexico bridge repairs could take seven months

According to a report from Mexico News Daily, it could take seven months to repair the Mazatlán-to-Durango highway, where a diesel fuel truck exploded on the night of Jan. 13 atop El Carrizo, one of the new highway’s many towering bridges. This would create eastbound shipping challenges for west Mexico produce growers until the end of the summertime shipping.bridge-MexicoOn the night of Jan. 13, a diesel fuel tanker truck rolled and exploded, causing severe damage to the El Carrizo bridge. Photo courtesy of Mexico News Daily

The $2.2 billion, four-year-old highway, Mexico Highway 40D, is a fast, safe connection between Mexico’s west coast produce production areas and south Texas. Beyond tourists driving to Mazatlán, it is particularly useful to Mexico’s west coast growers; notably those in the major shipping district of Culiacan, Sinaloa, to ship directly to McAllen, TX. For trucks destined for points east and north of McAllen, it is a shorter route than driving northwest up the coast to Nogales.

The exploding diesel tanker burned about 9,000 square feet of the bridge.

The post-fire detour adds eight to twelve hours to reach McAllen from Culiacan, according to Matt Mandel, the chief operating officer of SunFed.

The bridge fire initially did not create too much disruption for shipments to McAllen, according to George Quintero Jr., managing partner of Grower Alliance LLC, which is based in Rio Rico.

Given the new highway, Grower Alliance and many other Nogales distributors are increasingly using McAllen in their distribution plans.

Quintero’s trucks were able to go around the bridge on other routes, he said. The knocked-out bridge mainly impacted Sinaloa. “It is not a big deal for Michoacan, which is beyond” the damaged highway in the direction of McAllen.

“Other shippers in Culiacan will have to go through here” in Nogales “or waste time going around. We won’t be affected” because Grower Alliance was virtually done with wintertime Culiacan production. The firm will receive Culiacan production again this fall. “We do not have a lot of Culiacan-to-McAllen business. Some people do.”

Mandel’s SunFed is headquartered in Rio Rico but has a McAllen distribution facility. He said, “We definitely diverted a couple of trucks” to Nogales shortly after the bridge fire. Now, using the detour, “we are still going to McAllen and it may take longer. But it’s cheaper than coming here and then shipping to customers in Texas.”

Mandel said SunFed has been steadfastly developing a Texas customer base. The company is leasing a warehouse in Weslaco, TX, until a permanent new facility is established.

With the highway challenge, “the last thing we want to do is lose the momentum we worked so hard to create,” Mandel said. He added that the bridge closing, atop electronic log enforcement and high freight rates, is another transportation challenge this year. Having a Texas operation helps overcome transportation problems, he said. “It’s still an advantage to ship any freight through Texas with perishable product. The faster, the better.”

While using railroads is an option for the future, “door-to-door trucking is faster. I don’t see rail taking hold.” But, Mandel concluded, “I’d be the last person to write off change in the industry. But with customers wanting JIT (just in time) deliveries, railroad inefficiencies will be hard to overcome.”