BROWNSVILLE, Texas, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Government officials from the United States and Mexico held an event Tuesday to celebrate the opening of the West Rail Bypass International Bridge, the first rail link between the countries in more than a century.
The U.S. delegation at the event included Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske and U.S. Representative Filemon Vela, D-Texas.
"It will create the opportunity to move goods more quickly between the two cities," Pritzker told USA Today, adding that it will help increase trade between the countries. "The opportunity exists to do more commerce, but we have not invested in our infrastructure."
Mexico's representatives at the event included Secretary of Finance and Public Credit Luis Videgaray Caso, Secretary of Communications and Transport Gerardo Ruiz Esparza and Secretary of Foreign Affairs José Antonio Meade Kuribreña
The trains began rolling across the new bridge on Aug. 7. It took more than 15 years for the West Rail Bypass International Bridge to become a reality.
The final inspection for the bridge was in early April. The rail bridge was partly created by efforts of local governments in South Texas that wanted to move freight trains outside of the city of Brownsville, which lies across the border from Matamoros, Mexico.
The new railroad bridge was built west of the city and will eliminate 14 railroad street crossings in Brownsville. The former railroad route would take freight trains through residential areas, neighborhood parks and commercial areas. It would make it difficult for fire trucks and police vehicles to respond to emergencies.
With the new bridge, there are now seven railroad bridges between Texas and Mexico. The effort to fund and build the bridge lasted for 15 years, as officials had difficulties with the Department of Homeland Security.
Mexico paid $80 million for the railroad and Brownsville and Cameron County officials gathered $40 million, mostly paid for by the federal government. Traffic congestion will decrease in both Brownsville and Matamoros, which has more than double the population of Brownsville.