As construction wraps up on Mexican Federal Highway 40, a super highway that will soon connect the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico at the Port of Brownsville, Texas, local officials in South Texas are scrambling to prepare for up to a half-million additional large trucks in the years ahead loaded with cargo from Mexico's Sinaloa agricultural region—the “breadbasket” of Mexico.

The impact of that new “super land route” that originates in Mazatlan, Mexico, and crosses the mountains before rushing downhill to the Texas border is already being compared to the Panama Canal. Once opened—on or about Oct. 17—Mexican 18-wheel freight haulers can leave the Pacific coast and arrive at the Gulf of Mexico port in less than 12 hours of driving time. That is almost half the time required before the highway was built.

The highway was not scheduled for completion until next spring but commercial trucks have already started using the route and Mexican transportation officials say more will follow as the last improvements are made at interchanges around a few major Mexican cities.

Officials in Mexico and Texas are applauding the aggressive highway project, pointing out that trucks servicing the rich agricultural district of Mexico will soon have a shorter and more direct route to Pharr/Brownsville than they do to the Arizona border, where border crossing facilities are already overcrowded.

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South Texans have been gearing up for the influx of added Mexican commerce for several years, mostly along the Lower Rio Grande Valley corridor from McAllen to Brownsville. While the McAllen area has increased cold storage and traditional storage significantly over the last five years, the Lower Valley, specifically Brownsville, has been slower to respond, a measure Cameron County and Brownsville leaders say is quickly changing.

At a special meeting of the Brownsville/Cameron County Produce Committee earlier this month, County Commissioner Ernie Fernandez said the community is not ready for the major influx of freightliners expected in the weeks ahead.

"We're not ready...not even close to being ready," he told the committee.