Over 100 miles of Valley highways to be designated interstate By Steve Taylor
WESLACO, May 30 - Rio Grande Valley residents will soon have a new interstate name to learn and it is not I-69.
U.S. 83 from Harlingen to Mission is going to be designated I-2 in the summer because the 47-mile stretch of road is up to interstate quality. At the same time, U.S. 77 from Brownsville to Raymondville will be designated I-69 East and U.S. 281 from Pharr to Edinburg will be designated I-69 Central.
Confirmation of the names was made by Victor M. Mendez, administrator in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration on Thursday during a two-day
visit to the Valley.
“As of today we have approved the designation of Interstate 2. The Texas Transportation Commission has taken action on this and approved it. So, TxDOT can begin placing the shields on the highways,” Mendez told the Guardian.
“I-2 and I-69 will bring future economic opportunities along this corridor. For an economic standpoint the potential is tremendous. It is important for us in terms of connecting our economies throughout the nation and ultimately to the rest of the world.”
Mendez made announcements about I-69 and I-2 at two venues on Thursday. He spoke with
Cameron and Willacy county leaders at the Harlingen Country Club at a breakfast event and to Hidalgo County leaders at a luncheon event at the Rio Grande Valley Partnership (RGVP) offices in Weslaco. RGVP and Congressman Filemon Vela were the hosts for the two events.
Mario Jorge, the Pharr District engineer for TxDOT, was present at both events. He told the Guardian that a ceremony or two would take place later this summer to officially unveil the new signage for I-69 E, I-69 C, and I-2. He said the expressways would keep their current names also – U.S. 77, U.S. 281, and U.S. 83.
“Today’s news is very exciting. We have been working very hard over the last 15 years to reconstruct our highways to interstate standards,” Jorge said.
Asked why U.S. 83 in the Valley would be called I-2, Jorge said usually, interstate’s running east to west are designated with even numbers and that the lowest even numbers are placed at the southern end of the nation, such as I-10, which runs from Santa Monica, Calif., to Jacksonville, Fla., and which runs through Houston, San Antonio and El Paso. Also, Jorge said, there is a major east-west highway in northern Mexico called Highway 2 so it made sense to have the same
number. Jorge said the summer ceremony to unveil the new interstate signs would be coordinated by RGVP and the Alliance for I-69 Texas. RGVP President and CEO Julian Alvarez said he is hoping to get a number of VIPs to attend the unveilings.
Many dignitaries were at Thursday’s two transportation events. They included Harlingen Mayor Chris Boswell and Mission Mayor Beto Salinas at the Harlingen event, and Pharr Mayor Polo Palacios and Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia at the Weslaco event.
Present at both events was Polk County Judge John Thompson, chairman of the Alliance for I-69 Texas. “After 20 years of doing this you wonder if you are going to live long enough to see it. But, concrete is being poured, signs are going up. It is a great day,” Thompson said.
When finally complete, I-69 will run from the Rio Grande Valley all the way north to Port Huron, Michigan, next to the Canadian border. Asked where else the I-69 signage had gone up in Texas, Thompson said the first stretch of I-69 was unveiled in Robstown. Since then two small sections have been unveiled in Houston with a third on the way. I-69 signs were also now on display in
Texarkana, he said.
“We have about 250 miles that are at I-69 status or close to being signed as I-69. And, we have $742 million worth of projects ongoing right now to bring other parts of the project up to interstate standard,” Thompson said.
“I am so proud of what is going on in the Valley and what is going on up and down the I-69 corridor. But, most of what is going on right now that is newsworthy is in the Valley. Hopefully it will expand up the state. I am so proud of the cooperative nature of the Valley leaders. And I am so proud to be here with longtime friends. We have worked together for so long. It is a great day.”
Cameron County Commissioner David Garza agreed with Thompson’s sentiments. At the Harlingen event he asked for a moment’s silence to remember two of the Valley’s biggest champions for I-69, the late Bill Summers and the late Col. Bill Card.
“This is a culmination of years and years of work by many dedicated Valley folks, some of whom are no longer with us, such as Bill Summers and Col. Bill Card. They never got to see this happen. For the rest of us it is a dream come true. The significance of I-69 is immense. We will be able to look back in 20 years and see the growth that occurred because of these interstates. It will be just
like what happened in the Dallas area,” Garza said.
Alvarez also recognized the contributions of Summers and Card at the Weslaco event.
Congressman Vela told the Guardian that with 1.2 million living in the Valley and even more
living just across the border in Tamaulipas, the region deserved an interstate system. “From a metropolitan standpoint we are one of the largest areas in the country. We have to keep driving that point home in Washington, D.C. We are a large metropolitan area,” he said. Vela also said it was an exciting time to be representing the Valley with interstate signage on its way, a new university and medical school already announced and, potentially, the SpaceX project being
worked on in Brownsville.
Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia agreed. “So far, 2013 has been good to the Valley. Both our state legislative delegation and federal legislative delegation have been working to develop our area properly, which is important. This is a big step,” Garcia said.
Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza said that while it is exciting to see interstate designation happening in the Valley area leaders in South Texas could not rest until U.S. 77 and U.S. 281 are upgraded to interstate standard between the Valley and Interstate 37. “We still have a lot of work to do, as Mr. Mendez mentioned. This is a great time for the region, because of the designation, finally, but now we need to connect it to I-37. This is a great step but we
need to find ways to find a connection to 37,” Garza said.
Administrator Mendez gave the Guardian an exclusive interview while at the Harlingen Country
Club. He spoke about the need to speed up federal transportation projects and the reauthorization of MAP-21.
Mendez said MAP-21, which Congress passed last July, has been transformational for freight, performance management, project delivery and environmental streamlining. He said that as part of MAP-21, the Administration was collating information for a national freight network by asking states what their priorities are. “We want to connect land and sea ports. We want to connect to
the world<” Mendez said.
Mendez added that a new transportation bill will be needed by Oct. 1, 2014.He said within the new bill, policies will be tweaked based on what has been learned from MAP-21. “The biggest issue outstanding is still the levels of funding we as a nation are prepared to implement to bring our transportation system up to
par,” Mendez acknowledged.
Mendez also mentioned his department’s Every Day Counts initiative, which aims to expedite project delivery at a much faster rate. “We are engaging the private sector, asking them to give us their best ideas to accelerate projects, to cut project delivery time in half. Mendez said the initiative is working and cited examples in states like Utah and Massachusetts where bridges are being slid into place on busy interstates over a weekend. “We are looking for innovative financing strategies to bring the private sector into the mix.
Mendez said if anyone in the Valley has any innovative ideas for transportation
projects they should email him at email@example.com. “I am very accessible, I am ready to look at the ideas,” Mendez told the Guardian.
Alliance for I-69 Texas Interstate Highway Progress Report
Cornyn Statement on Expansion of I-69
AUSTIN – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) issued the following statement after the Texas Transportation Commission voted to approve adding new highway segments to Interstate 69:
“I’m pleased to hear that I-69 will be expanded with new highway segments, and I’d like to thank the Texas Transportation Commission, the Federal Highway Administration, and South Texas elected officials and community leaders for their work in making this a reality.
“With Texas ranked as one of the best states in job growth, these types of innovations are critical for making sure Texas continues to be the best place to work and live. I look forward to taking advantage of these expanded roadways during my travels in South Texas."
Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance and Judiciary Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.
Another 116 Miles Added to Interstate 69 System in Texas
AUSTIN - The Texas Transportation Commission today gave final approval to designation of an additional 116 miles of freeway in South Texas and Northeast Texas as part of the Interstate 69 system. The Federal Highway Administration approved the four highway sections last week.
The newly designated interstate sections mean a total of 186 miles of the I-69 route that have been added to the Interstate System in the past two years.
“This is a landmark day in the 20-year effort to make I-69 a reality in Texas,” said John Thompson, Alliance board chairman. “It is the result of a sustained local, state and federal cooperative effort. Community leaders along the I-69 route have relentlessly pursued this goal because they know that moving people and freight efficiently is vital to our economy and our quality of life.”
Transportation Commission action means that for the first time the large population centers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley will be served by the Interstate Highway System. Three Valley highways are now interstates.
US 77 through Cameron and Willacy Counties will be signed as Interstate 69 East. This includes 52 miles of existing freeway starting at the Rio Grande in Brownsville and running north past Raymondville.
The 13 miles of US 281 freeway in Pharr and Edinburg will be signed as Interstate 69 Central, a designation that will eventually extend northward all the way to George West.
The east-west US 83 freeway that connects more than a dozen Valley cities has been designated as Interstate 2. It extends approximately 46 miles from Harlingen to west of Mission. US 83 was not designated by Congress as part of I-69 but the Alliance for I-69 Texas and community leaders have insisted over the years that it should be considered an interstate connector between the legs of I-69.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley interstate highway designations were made possible by the passage of milestone federal legislation championed by the Alliance for I-69 Texas over a period of several years and passed in 2012 as part of MAP-21. The effort led by Congressmen Blake Farenthold and Ruben Hinojosa and Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, and co-sponsored by every member of the Texas Delegation along the proposed I-69 route removed from federal law a requirement that completed highway segments must be connected to an existing interstate highway before they could be added to the Interstate Highway System.
The Transportation Commission also designated a five-mile section of US 59 freeway on the southwest side of Texarkana as Interstate 369. The three-digit I-69 spur designation will eventually be given to the entire 115-mile section of US 59 from Texarkana to a point near Tenaha in Shelby County. This is necessary because the planned national route for I-69 leaves Texas following US 84 near Joaquin and heads northeast into Louisiana and southeast Arkansas.
Interstate 69 in Texas is being developed as a series of incremental upgrades to existing highways following US 59 from Texarkana to Houston and south to Victoria. In South Texas there will be three branches of the I-69 System including US 59 leading to Laredo, US 281 south to McAllen, and US 77 from Victoria to Corpus Christi and on to Brownsville.
The first 6.2-mile section of I-69 is on the western edge of Corpus Christi and was signed in 2011. A 35-mile section of the Eastex Freeway became I-69 in 2012 and a 28-mile section of Houston’s Southwest Freeway became I-69 earlier this year.
The 11-mile section of US 59 through downtown Houston is under engineering review by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. It is anticipated it will be added to I-69 within the coming year.
TxDOT has programmed a total of $742 million in funded I-69 route projects to be completed over the next few years.
Importance of Freight Stressed in Washington
I-69 will provide a freight corridor needed to link border ports of entry with seaports and inland commercial centers.
That was just one of the messages delivered by a delegation of 13 Alliance for I-69 Texas leaders who made the rounds in Washington, D.C., on May 15 and 16. They were joined by Jeff Austin III, a member of the Texas Transportation Committee.
There were a total of 18 meetings with members of Congress along the I-69 route and with key congressional committee staff to further advance the I-69 project. They were able to point to substantial progress being made in funding I-69 projects and securing official interstate designation for completed freeway sections on the Texas route.
The group stressed that I-69 is critical to the continuing development of the state and the nation’s freight system. They noted that all ten Texas deepwater ports and numerous shallow-draft ports and terminal on the Intracoastal Waterway are served by the I-69 route. Long-haul interstate freight connections will be improved once I-69 is complete. There are two dozen major railroad truck-rail intermodal facilities near the multi-state I-69 route.
They also made the point that the six South Texas border crossing in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Webb Counties combine to make up 50% of the truck crossings on the entire US-Mexico border.
Another of the messages delivered was to emphasize the key provisions of MAP-21 that should be preserved or enhanced in the next federal transportation authorization bill. These include environmental streamlining, program consolidation to provide greater state flexibility, continuation of innovative financing authority, passage of a full five-year bill, and development of a National Freight Plan to direct federal investment.
In addition, the delegation met with officials at US DOT to discuss the status of I-69 and the department’s development of the National Freight Plan called for in MAP-21 passed in 2012.
Pictured below left to right: Honorable Mayor Corpus Christi Nelda Martinez, Congressman Filemon Vela, i69 Board Member Alan Johnson, TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Austin, Julian Alvarez, Laredo City Manager Carlos Villarreal
Resolution in Support of Space X
SpaceX Bill Unanimously Clears Texas House of Representatives: Final Vote Expected Thursday
Legislation which would further the SpaceX Boca Chica Beach commercial space launch project cleared the full Texas House of Representatives without opposition Wednesday. The bill will be heard again Thursday on a perfunctory third reading, and will then soon head to the Senate
for consideration there.
House Bill 2623 by State Rep. Rene Oliveira allows Cameron County to temporarily close an area of beach for launches and space flight activities with approval of the General Land Office.
"We're demonstrating to the space industry that we want to be at the forefront of its development here in Texas," said Oliveira. "It also demonstrates that Cameron County and Brownsville are
committed to bring SpaceX to South Texas."
Although SpaceX has not made a final decision to relocate to the area, Oliveira said he filed the bill to ensure that the necessary legislative measures are in place to advance the project. .
"The project has received the strong backing of state leadership. The bill is about protecting access to Texas beaches while developing cutting edge new industry in our state," said Oliveira.
The bill specifies that a county must have the approval of the state's General Land Office before a launch may be made. The bill also prohibits the closure of a beach during the Saturday or Sunday preceding Memorial Day; Memorial Day; July 4; a Saturday after Memorial Day but before
Labor Day; and, a Sunday after Memorial Day but before Labor Day.
The proposed SpaceX project recently cleared initial Federal Aviation Administration environmental impact studies. If the FAA does not approve SpaceX's launch site, the beaches cannot be closed. Beaches may only be closed for a launch at an FAA approved site. If the FAA denies the
site, the bill will have no effect.
For immediate Release April 24, 2013
Anthony Gray (512)463-0640
Texas Senate Infrastructure Funding
The Texas Senate just passed by 31-0 SJR1, which allows voters to approve or deny on the November ballot a one-time $5.7 billion draw from the projected $12 billion Rainy Day Fund for:
· $800 million in public education funding
· $2 billion for water projects in the State Water Plan
· $2.9 billion for road and transportation projects.
The House has not considered this measure yet, and it remains to be seen whether the House could get the 2/3rd vote required to move the bill. But it's a significant vote for the Senate.
Royal Technologies Corporation Announces 325,000 sqft Manufacturing Facility in Mission
MISSION, TX - April 15, 2013 – Jim Vander Kolk, President, Royal Technologies Corporation, announced that after much consideration between Mission and other sites, the company has chosen to expand its operations in Mission, Texas. Royal Technologies Corporation has acquired 12 acres in the Mission Expressway Business Park where it will construct a Class A, 325,000 square foot manufacturing facility and create at least 100 jobs.
In April 2012, Mission EDC played a role in assuring that the newly formed alliance between Hi-Tech Plastics and Royal Technologies had a smooth transition. Hi-Tech Plastics, a custom molder in Mission, Texas, and Royal Technologies, an advanced engineering and manufacturing company serving industries as diverse as automotive, furniture, and consumer products in Hudsonville, MI, formed this alliance to better serve their customers in this region. The alliance resulted in a significant capital investment and an increase of approximately 30 jobs. This alliance proved to be a great match and in early December 2012, Royal Technologies acquired Hi-Tech plastics with the
intention of increasing their facility, employment, and production in Mission,Texas.
Royal Technologies Corporation, staying true to their word, plans to break ground later this month and expects to have the facility complete by early 2014. “The Mission EDC team has been working with Royal Technologies for the past several months and we are excited to see their hard work has paid off” stated David Deanda, MEDC/MEDA Chair. “The creation of 100 jobs is a substantial number of new jobs for a city like Mission; these are great jobs that will support families.”
"Royal Technologies Corporation’s expansion into Mission is a testament to the prosperous business climate that this region offers," Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas said. "I am thrilled about the expansion, and I am fully supportive of Royal Technologies’ decision to bring additional jobs and added revenue to our community."
Royal Technologies has about 900 employees throughout the U.S, not including the 85 jobs that were included in the acquisition of Hi-Tech Plastics or the 100 new jobs that will be created later this year.
“This project is an indication of Mission’s business-friendly climate and proof that Governor Perry’s message of Texas being open for business continues to
remain strong” stated Alex Meade, CEO, Mission EDC.
For more information, please contact: Mission EDC at (956) 585-0040
Pictured are Representative Eddie Lucio and Rio Grande Valley Partnership Board Member Dr. Ceasar Maldonaldo with LVN students from Texas State Technical College. TSTC students and instructors were in Austin for TSTC Day!
4th Annual Texas Hold'Em Poker Tournament
The 4th Annual Charity Texas Hold'Em Poker Tournament was a success! Thank you to all of our sponsors, players, members, board members and everyone else that was involved in making this event possible!
Congratulations to our first place winner Brice Richards, second place winner Gunnen Craig and third place winner Michael Garza!
The Rio Grande Valley Partnership would like to congratulate the past Hidalgo County Regional
Mobility Authority Board Members for serving on the board.
Pictured left to right- Ramiro Salazar, Joe Daniel Olivarez, Dennis Burleson, Ramon Garcia, Roberto Villarreal and Pilar Rodriguez, PE, Executive Director.
Not present Richard Perez, Ruben Serna, Juan Maldonado and Ruben Plata.
Pictured are members of the BTA board with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in his Washington office.
Around the table: Julian Alvarez from the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, Miguel Perez from Ryder, Lee Snitzer from DELPHI, Nelson Baildo, Bret Erickson from Texas International ProduceAssociation, Fred Schwien from Boeing, Russ Jones from RL Jones Custombrokers, and Jesse Hereford from S&B.
Regional Mobility Update
The following link will take you to a power point that was presented to our Board of Directors at our August board meeting. Because of the ever-growing population, we have made the Regional Mobility Update a priority for over 20 years, and is something that we feel the entire Rio Grande Valley will benefit from.