US adds seven inspection booths at Southwest’s busiest commercial crossing
LAREDO, Texas — Federal authorities yesterday opened seven new inspection booths for commercial traffic heading north to the United States from Mexico, nearly doubling capacity at the bridge that is the busiest commercial port on America’s southwestern border — and a prime smuggling corridor for drug gangs.
US Customs and Border Protection said the new posts will ease wait times on Laredo’s World Trade International Bridge, where more than 4,800 18-wheelers cross into American territory daily.
The $5.4 million project also bolsters inspection of big-rigs that smugglers can cram with cocaine, marijuana, or amphetamines hidden among regular cargo. It includes two additional new lanes for “secondary inspection,’’ an area with sniffer dogs where customs agents can provide extra screening.
“Laredo is about tractor-trailers, it’s about commercial vehicles, so that’s the environment the smuggler’s going to try to work within,’’ said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement’s San Antonio office, which oversees all of South Texas.
Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas joined his cross-border counterpart from Nuevo Laredo, Benjamin Galvan Gomez, and a gaggle of federal, state, and local officials, who stood in front of the new blue-and-white inspection booths and cut a dark ribbon stretched symbolically across lanes marked “Fast 2’’ and “Fast 3.’’ All around, thunderous and pungent lines of trucks waited to pass through the border.
Less than a minute later, a truck hauling water heaters rolled forward, the first to go through one of the new booths. Its driver, wearing a cap with a script “NY’’ on it, held out his passport in one hand and a copy of his cargo manifest in the other. He was taken aback when a half dozen of the grinning dignitaries reached up to shake his hand.