Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference with Nuevo León Gov. Samuel Alejandro García Sepúlveda on Wednesday. Credit: Kaylee Greenlee Beal for The Texas Tribune

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Gov. Greg Abbott and Nuevo León Gov. Samuel Alejandro García Sepúlveda announced an agreement they say will help ease commercial traffic at the Laredo-Colombia bridge, one of at least four international bridges where state troopers have done additional inspections on cargo, causing hourslong delays the past week.

After a meeting, the governors announced the deal during a news conference in Laredo, where truckers have been experiencing waits of three hours to cross, which is significantly longer than the average wait times of 15 minutes on a Wednesday afternoon.

As part of the deal, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers will stop inspecting every commercial truck on the Laredo-Colombia bridge as long as Nuevo León has checkpoints on its side of the Mexican state’s 9-mile-long border with Texas. The state inspections will continue for trucks coming from the other three Mexican states that border Texas.

Abbott mandated the vehicle inspections on April 6 in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s planned lifting late next month of Title 42 — a pandemic-era rule that allows immigration officials to turn away recently arrived migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, including those who are seeking asylum.

The deal with García Sepúlveda provides little relief for the overall trade logjam that has has been playing out between the two countries since Abbott’s order went into effect. The Colombia bridge is just one of 13 commercial crossings between Texas and Mexico and the only one connected to Nuevo León. Over the last two years, around 20,000 commercial vehicles have crossed that bridge per month, according to statistics from the city of Laredo, but noncommercial vehicles also cross the Colombia bridge.

Another nearby crossing, the World Trade Bridge in Laredo, is open only for commercial traffic and more than 165,000 trucks crossed that bridge each month over the last two years, according to city numbers. But the World Trade Bridge is connected to the state of Tamaulipas, not Nuevo León, so it’s unclear what the future of state inspections will be at that crossing and the 11 others that do not touch Nuevo León.

In the Rio Grande Valley, no commercial vehicles have crossed the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, typically the busiest commercial crossing in the Valley, all week after truckers on the Mexico side on Monday began blocking north- and southbound lanes in protest of the new inspections. The inspections quickly led to widespread delays for cross-border trade after Abbott announced the program last week.

Mexican truckers in Reynosa, south of McAllen, and Ciudad Juárez earlier this week created blockades preventing cargo from coming into the United States as a protest against Abbott’s added inspections. Some truckers reported having to sleep overnight in their 18-wheelers because the state inspections were holding up lines, they said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which already conducts commercial inspections, has called the state inspections “unnecessary.”

Texas borders four Mexican states — Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas. On Tuesday, the governors of Tamaulipas and Coahuila sent a letter to Abbott telling him the inspections are “overzealous” and criticizing him saying, “political points have never been a good recipe to address common challenges or threats.”

María Eugenia Campos Galván, the governor of Chihuahua, said in a statement she is concerned over how the added inspections have affected both countries’ economies. She said she hopes all Mexican states that border Texas will join her in having a dialogue with Abbott to find another solution.

“I am a faithful believer in dialogue and mediation; and I am sure that it is possible to promote better actions to strengthen the security of both sides of the border, without affecting the economy of Mexican and American families,” she said.

The agreement comes as Abbott has been heavily criticized by the White House, Mexican federal and state governments and the American private sector about the Texas governor’s orders to DPS troopers to inspect every commercial truck coming from Mexico. Even fellow Republican Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, called on him to reverse course on Tuesday, citing supply chain issues that would leave grocery store shelves empty.

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