SOURCE: The City of Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau

December 17, 2008 23:04 ET

City of Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau Welcomes Paisanos

LAREDO, TX--(Marketwire - December 17, 2008) - Paisanos are welcomed seasonally at mile marker 13 along IH-35 for 48 continuous hours during one of the busiest times of the year for motorists. A unique, bi-national project offered only in Laredo, Texas assists travelers headed to Mexico this year starting at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, December 19, 2008, through Sunday, December 21, 2008, at midday. The Paisano Rest Stop is made possible through the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB) working in conjunction with the Mexican Consulate.

Officials from several City of Laredo Departments, including the LCVB, Police, Bridge System, Public Works, Traffic Safety, Solid Waste, Parks & Leisure, Health Department, and the Texas Department of Transportation, provide the setup and logistical support to partner agencies, including various Mexican federal authorities, each year.

LCVB makes the tent and facilities available out at mile marker 13 on IH-35 and invites partner agencies to join in on the specially tasked operation. LCVB staffs the tent for the 48-hour operation to provide general visitor information and to convince them to rest overnight in one of Laredo's 44 hotels. Hospitality services are also provided to include snacks, coffee, refreshments and portable bathroom facilities.

Federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs play a key role in facilitating the project. The U.S. Consulate also assists in the process of information dissemination. The Texas Department of Public Safety and the Webb County Sheriff's Department also offer support, especially in guiding motorists to it from the roads further north of the rest stop and assisting stranded motorists.

In order to reach southbound IH-35 traffic, TxDOT'S Laredo District will provide bilingual information in English/Spanish about the rest stop via Dynamic Message signs at specific locations entering Laredo. They also lend the City of Laredo CVB the area at MM13 at the highway, as well as staff courtesy patrols and coordinate public service announcements to air on their AM information station.

TxDOT's combined resources from various districts will afford the use of TransGuide Dynamic Message Signs, as well as portable message signs to inform motorists of the services available in Laredo.

The City of Laredo provides a fully functional yet accessible area housed under a tent for Mexican agencies such as the Mexican and U.S. Consulates, Immigration, Customs from Nuevo Laredo and Colombia, Banjercito, and the Nuevo Laredo municipal government to erect temporary offices at the rest stop in order to assist Paisanos in the preparation of paper work for the necessary permits to facilitate their crossing into Mexico.

Other Mexican officials that are involved in the effort include the Nuevo Laredo Tourism and Economic Development Departments, Federal and local transit police, CAPUFE, and CODEFRONT. In addition to these agencies' presence, the LCVB staffs the rest stop continuously for the purpose of providing tourism information services, including accommodations and other general City information to out-of-town visitors. This year hotel partners were asked to submit special hotel offers specifically aimed at the traveling Paisano, therefore CVB staff will be making a special effort to convince them to rest here overnight.

Other services offered to the Paisano traveler include complimentary coffee, refreshments, restrooms, and information resources from maps to permit applications to personal assistance with filling out and making copies of forms.

The City of Laredo is making additional efforts for Paisanos to feel welcome this year including another reception area at the Laredo Civic Center Auditorium lobby during the following hours:

--  Friday - Dec. 19th from 3pm - 9pm;
--  Saturday - Dec. 20th from 8am - 9 pm;
--  Sunday - Dec. 21st from 8am - 9 pm;
--  Monday & Tuesday (if necessary) 8 am - 9 pm.

Duplicate flyers and visitor information will be available for pick up at a table in the auditorium lobby as well as coffee, snacks, refreshments, and of course bathroom facilities.

Additionally, while in Laredo, Paisanos will be able to dial the local 311 informational line and customer service operators will be able to provide them pertinent information. Through the efforts of the Laredo Police Department, an alternate route will be staffed with officers assigned to a specific traffic detail starting December 18, 2008, at the exit from IH-35 at Del Mar/Santa Maria. To assist with the flow of people and vehicles, Paisanos will be guided to either Santa Maria south to Bridge I or north to Mines Road with access to Colombia Bridge. Working on providing health and medical assistance to the Paisanos, the City of Laredo has also planned to provide a special Emergency Medical Assistance (EMS) bicycle patrol along the most congested south bound routes. Anyone seeking the EMS assistance should still dial the 9-1-1 emergency number and inform dispatch operators of their emergency needs and bike patrols will be dispatched accordingly.

In collaboration with other agencies outside City of Laredo departments, U.S. Customs provides their regular brochures, titled "Know Before You Go," a guide for U.S. travelers that regularly cross from here to Mexico and back. Agencies such as Nuevo Laredo Transit provide maps that give these seasonal motorists the safest, most efficient routes through Nuevo Laredo and further into Mexico.

The Mexican and U.S. Consulates provide the motorists with numbers where they can seek aid if they happen to experience and need to report crime. The entire project is a binational effort to ensure that the crossing and traveling experience is one that will be repeated at the Port of Laredo in the future.

Over the last two years, the Mexican Consulate indicates that almost 4,000 people took advantage of the services provided at the rest stop. Over a million Mexicans are expected to travel from the United States to their hometowns during the holidays, and Laredo is their preferred crossing site. The annual event has a ten-year history with over 50,000 people served over that time period.

Contact Information

    A.B. Barrera, CMD
    Fax 956-753-5901
    Cellular 956-285-4338