JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Calling it a tragedy waiting to happen, the mayor of Juarez says he has shut down two structures linking the Bridge of the Americas to the city’s urban sprawl.

The reconstruction of the twin Carlos Villarreal bridges will mean necessary inconveniences to El Pasoans coming over to Juarez from BOTA for the next six months, Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar said.

“The College of Engineers alerted us to the danger. We have had accidents in the past and it would have been irresponsible on our part to wait for a tragedy to happen before we fix it,” Perez Cuellar said.

On Monday, traffic officers directed all traffic coming over from El Paso to a road inside Juarez’s Chamizal Park that takes motorists to the Juan Pablo II Highway. People can follow the highway all the way east to the Ysleta-Zaragoza area or turn right toward Downtown. Exact routes for U.S. visitors to return from Mexico to El Paso through the Bridge of the Americas were “in flux” on Monday.

A Border Report/KTSM crew given access to the damaged structures documented a vertical gash in one of the support pillars as well as exposed rebar and cracked concrete on the twin structures.

Rebar is exposed under one of the structures near the Bridge of the Americas shut down by the mayor of Juarez for safety reasons. (Border Report photo)

“Look at this mess – and it’s early in the day,” said America Perez, a Juarez resident who parked at Chamizal Park to try and figure out traffic flows. “A lot of people are going to be late to work or to meet their families. And those that come because of some emergency are also going to be delayed.”

While she talked to reporters, a vehicle tried to cut in line to get out of the park, prompting several other motorists to honk at him. “And what about the noise pollution?” Juarez said with a smirk.

Juarez City Hall staff told Border Report it would keep traffic officers at the foot of the bridge to ensure vehicles move swiftly. The city is paying for the $5 million in repairs.

“We would like to completely tear down and rebuild the structure, but we don’t have money for that,” Perez Cuellar said. “Between fixing it and leaving it as it is, I decided to fix it.”

The mayor said construction would go on for the next six months, give or take. “We will be pressing the contractors to finish the job in six months,” he said.