I already posted the chapala.com story about buying a tag at the bridge. There is also a non-toll road from Laredo, starting at the "Red Roof Inn" exit on 35. Here is another take on this controversy:
When we heard about the Columbia International Bridge Crossing outside of Laredo, we jumped at the alternative and have since taken it every time we drive to the States. Heading North on Mexico Rte #85, after the customs checkpoint, take Mex Rte #2 toward Columbia International Bridge IV. Drive 18 miles, then take the right ramp for Piedras Negras, drive another 11 miles and turn Right into the International Crossing area. Pay 23 pesos to cross the bridge, with US Immigration and Passport Control booths immediately located, once you’re over the Rio Grande. During our recent trip two weeks ago, we were the only car on the bridge, crossed and were through US Immigration, cruising into Texas in 15 minutes. It’ a safe and efficient snap.
Now comes the new hitch that every traveler using this bridge needs to know about. There is a 22 mile stretch from the border to US 35 on Texas 255, a Texas toll road. Until June 1, we could stop and pay the $2.00US toll at the manned booth. No more. Now there is just an abandoned, unmanned booth with a sign stating “Texas Tag” only. There are no services on this road, nothing but sagebrush and rattle snakes, no where to buy this thing called a “Texas Tag” and a fine of $250 for going through without one. If you don’t have a Texas Tag affixed to your windshield, you must take the road all the way back to Nuevo Laredo and begin Rte #35 there.
Fortunately, someone had alerted us to this new procedure long before we made the journey. By going on line at TxTag.org, you get a prepaid sticker sent to you for your windshield with a minimum purchase of $20. This tag is good on all Texas toll roads and more money can be added to the account on line or by calling 1-888-9824 whenever the amount drops below a certain point.
The process is easy and the tag works like a charm, but you must know about it before you set out, either going from Texas to Mexico or in the other direction if you want to use the convenience of the Columbia Bridge. We checked on line once we got to Texas, and sure enough, our account reflected a $2 charge for Texas 255 and (2)$1.50 charges on the Sam Houston Tollway. Hope this information helps those travelers crossing the US/ Mexico border.