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A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held recently for the La Esperanza de Alton affordable housing complex in Alton, Texas.

ALTON, RGV – When the City of Alton first incorporated in 1978, the city had a population of about 1,000 people.

Today, Alton has about 15,000 residents, has just established three new large apartment complexes that will mean more residents and has plans to widen its main road to McAllen.

Over the last 15 years, Alton has experienced an average growth rate of 12 percent. All the projections show that growth will continue. According to the Census Bureau, 48 percent of Alton’s population is under 25 years of age.

Within the next year, the city plans to rent out about 300 units from three new apartment complexes – bringing in about 2,000 new residents. Two of the three complexes are on Stewart Rd and the third is on Shary Rd.

Steve Peña, the chief executive officer for the City of Alton’s Development Corporation (CADC), said the city can expect even more growth with the development of commercial sectors.

“Everything has to go in succession,” Peña said. “You need to have the rooftops in order to have the retail. You need to have the retail in order to have the housetops.”

With the growing population, Alton intends to widen 5 Mile Line to accommodate traffic and provide better access to McAllen. However, Alton mayor Salvador Vela said McAllen has not been as quick to react as he would have liked.

“I would like McAllen to pay attention to this road because it’s really going to make more business for them than [it will] for us,” Vela said. Vela echoed recent commentary from Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas that there are now 200,000 people living northwest of Mission. Vela said many of these residents, living in unincorporated areas, would shop in McAllen if 5 Mile Line was improved.

“McAllen can be more cooperative. They know we’re doing this because the MPO [Metropolitan Planning Organization] has spoken to them, but they’re not responding and I don’t know why,” Vela said.

If Alton leaders are critical over the City of McAllen’s cooperation on road projects it would echo the feelings back in the 1970s when Alton was formed. Vela said neither Mission nor McAllen would provide infrastructure services to the area back then, which is why Alton leaders felt the need to incorporate. During the incorporation, Vela said there was a disagreement over the city limits between Alton and McAllen.

“We gave away land from Taylor Road to Sharyland,” Vela said. “We wanted the sewer project to go through and work better–and [sometimes] you have to let things go.”

In contrast, Roy Rodriguez, the city manager of McAllen, said his city is already partnering with Hidalgo County and the State of Texas to widen 5 Mile Line. He said other north-south roads such as Shary Road, Ware Road, Taylor Road and Bentsen Road have been or will be widened.

“Those roads are getting the capacity increases that they need, but [roads running] east-west have not – just up to 3 Mile Line,” Rodriguez said. “It’s obvious that as we grow north, [road widening] is going to happen. 4 Mile Line is being evaluated and it’s just going to continue. It’ll be 6 Mile Line and 7 Mile Line and then we’ll get past 107.”

Vela and Peña gave their comments in interviews with the Rio Grande Guardian at the opening of the La Esperanza de Alton affordable housing complex. Rodriguez gave his comments in an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian at a town hall meeting hosted by McAllen Mayor Jim Darling at Luby’s Restaurant on South Business 83 in McAllen.