Eleven years of a wealthy rancher’s determination finally paid off when the first privately built toll road in Texas opened this week.
According to the San Antonio Express-News
, Carlos Y. Benavides has put a lot of effort into getting the $85 million Camino Colombia built, which will connect the binational Colombia Solidarity Bridge to Interstate 35 at a point 23 miles north of downtown Laredo.
"It's an incredible feeling," said Benavides, president of Camino Columbia Inc. "We're finally at the end of the process. Now we'll see if people will drive on a toll road."
However, he doubts there will be a problem. The four-lane highway is the key connector between I-35 and Laredo’s ever-growing warehousing and transportation-logistics center. Mexico-bound rigs that used to line the highway en route to Laredo’s Jurez-Lincoln Bridge have been using the Colombia crossing and the new World Trade Bridge since April. But since the Texas Department of Transportation is still finishing up the overpass connecting I-35 to the World Trade Bridge, traffic has become really chaotic along Mines Road. Camino Colombia to the rescue.
Laredo holds the title as the nation's largest inland port, hosting about 14,000 trucks that travel its three commercial-traffic bridges daily. A fourth crossing, the Gateway to the Americas Bridge downtown, is restricted to pedestrians and passenger vehicles, Express-News
Benavides told the paper that he expects about 1,500 rigs and 300 passenger vehicles to use the road. Regular tolls of about $16 per truck and $3 per car will be waived through about Nov. 20, he said.