By NOMAAN MERCHANT Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. government has awarded a $275 million border wall contract for construction that would begin in South Texas in January, at the start of President Donald Trump’s second term if he is re-elected.
Caddell Construction Company, based in Montgomery, Alabama, won the contract to build 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) of barriers in and around Laredo, Texas, a city of 260,000 people on the Rio Grande, the river that runs between Texas and Mexico.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the contract award Friday night using funds it had previously received from Congress rather than military funding re-directed to the wall. CBP said construction would begin in January 2021 “pending availability of real estate.”
There is little existing wall separating Laredo and its sister city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Much of the planned construction would cut through private land in neighborhoods close to the edge of the Rio Grande, requiring the government to take property through its power of eminent domain.
U.S. government lawyers have filed lawsuits against South Texas landowners — including homes, businesses, and a Catholic orphanage — to seize part of their property or gain access to survey it. In the adjacent Rio Grande Valley, federal courts have allowed the government to immediately seize some land to expedite construction.
Trump has pressed forward with the border wall during the coronavirus pandemic, with construction ongoing at different parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Since Trump took office three years ago, 162 miles (261 kilometers) of new barriers have been built along the border, according to CBP. That’s still well short of the 500 miles (804 kilometers) Trump has promised to build by the end of this year.
Caddell Construction did not return a phone message left Friday seeking comment on the contract. Caddell was one of four companies chosen to build prototype wall designs in 2017.
The other three were Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. of Tempe, Arizona; Texas Sterling Construction Co. of Houston; and W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Caddell Construction does not have an office in Texas, but does list one in Fayetteville, Arkansas.