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Officials eye federal grant application

Congressman Henry Cuellar brought together trade and transportation officials for a meeting Friday at Laredo City Hall to discuss the development of a federal grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant.


The FASTLANE program provides dedicated funding for projects that address critical freight issues facing the nation’s highways and bridges.


The Laredo Customs District is the third largest in the nation surpassed only by Los Angeles and New York, processing $280 billion of trade.


Local officials anticipate trade through Laredo to increase by 40 percent over the next five years.


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s is currently soliciting competitive applications for up to $850 million.


The Laredo team is working to develop an application for highway improvements worth over $100 million.


The grant, which is due on Dec. 15, would increase the number of lanes from the World Trade Bridge to Interstate 35, and as well as adding direct connectors throughout loop 20.


These improvements will facilitate trade and help alleviate congestion on streets and highways.


Cuellar and the officials present at Friday’s meeting also discussed their work amending a presidential permit for World Trade Bridge to expand lanes from its current eight to 16 and installing a weight in motion system at the bridge.


In attendance were Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, City Manager Jesus Olivares, state Rep. Richard P. Raymond, District Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation Laredo District Pete Alvarez, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director Greg Alvarez for the Laredo Port of Entry, as well as representatives from Webb County, the Laredo Regional Mobility Authority, the Texas Freight Advisory Committee and the Border Trade Advisory Committee, among others.


“I organized this meeting ... with trade and transportation officials at all levels of government and development to develop a federal grant application in order to improve our border trade infrastructure in Laredo,” said Cuellar.


“These projects are necessary for the growth of our city and to alleviate congestion at World Trade Bridge and parts of town that receive heavy commercial traffic.


“These improvements would not only be tremendously beneficial for Laredo, but will also help retail, commerce and trade throughout the entire United States. I thank Mayor Saenz, City Manager Olivares, Representative Raymond and all officials who are working to invest in our city’s future.”