Del Rio News Herald
January 26, 2012
Commercial traffic into Mexico from Del Rio continued to increase last year, a sign that the maquiladora industry in Cuidad Acuña has held onto its momentum.
However, the number of personal vehicles heading south dwindled in 2011, after seeing a slight increase in 2010, according to figures released this week by the City of Del Rio.
The month of December saw the greatest decrease of non-commercial traffic with 7.3 percent fewer cars and pickups entering Mexico than in December 2010, the figures show.
Overall, southbound non-commercial traffic was about 1.2 percent less than the prior year, said Margie Montez, the superintendent of the Del Rio International Bridge.
But the category that continues to see the greatest losses is the number of pedestrians who cross into Mexico.
Southbound foot traffic on the bridge plummeted 25 percent in 2011 compared to two years ago, and 5 percent compared to 2010.
"Every year we're seeing a little bit fewer traffic," Montez said.
She attributes the decrease on a variety of factors, including a weakened economy and the lingering affects of a June 2009 mandate requiring passports for all border crossers - even those who routinely make the trip across the border.
She said since then, the numbers have been falling, except for commercial traffic, which increased 11 percent in 2011 compared to 2010.
Jackie Robinson, a city spokeswoman, said security concerns also have impacted travel into Mexico, which has been wracked by drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on cartels in 2006.
"We would be kidding ourselves if we don't think that it does play a role, but I don't think it plays as big a role as it does in other communities along the border," Robinson said.
Eight of the 12 months last year saw decreases in non-commercial traffic, with most of the loss occurring during the last three months of the year: October, November and December.
The amount of foot traffic going to Acuña fluctuated throughout 2011, with some months, such as February experiencing up to 34 percent less traffic.
When compared to 2009 figures, last year's numbers fare even worse. Some months, such as July and May, saw nearly 50 percent fewer people walking across the bridge than in 2010.
"The weather has a lot to do with it," Montez said.
Robinson pointed out that the distance a person has to walk across the Del Rio International Bridge is about 3/4 of a mile.
Montez also said wait times at the bridge checkpoints also are a deterrent.
"We see people paying the toll to cross and then turning back around because the line is all the way down the bridge," she said.
The silver lining, according to city officials, is that commercial traffic is thriving, up 20 percent in 2011 compared to 2009.
"I think over the last five years, they really have been focused on economic development," Robinson said. "We're seeing the result of that as well."
She said more companies have maquiladoras in Acuña than in Piedras Negras, across from Eagle Pass, and Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, combined.
"They now have five industrial parks in the city of Acuña," she said.
Al Arreola Jr., the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce's executive director, agrees with Robinson's assessment.
Arreola said Emerson is the latest company to announce it was investing in a maquiladora in Acuña.
Mexican city officials in September announced the company was investing $20 million in a maquiladora that would develop electronic medical products.
"Acuña gave them a sweetheart deal," Arreola said, adding Del Rio also stands to benefit from the transaction. "They still spend money over here."