Good morning, Madam Secretary, committee members, thank you for the opportunity to address the group. I just want to recognize all the previous speakers. And that just demonstrates that here in the RGV, we are united, who work collectively, whether it’s a city, a county, the RMA, the MPO, TxDOT, words like partnership, regionalization, group communications, are some of the things that are utilized to help prioritize the various needs here in our region.
Some of you have seen this map before. And really, while it’s up there, I could talk for an hour or more on this map. So many projects to talk about. That represents about $11 to $11.5 billion dollars worth of need here in our region. We were blessed to have $3.6 billion as part of the 2024 UTP (Unified Transportation Program). And you may think that’s a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But when it comes to the transportation infrastructure, that’s good. But we need more. What do I mean by that. The blue up there represents projects that have been identified, but are not yet funded. Projects in orange are projects that are partially funded. And projects in green are projects that are already funded.
Here, recently, we broke the $1 billion threshold when it comes to construction dollars. That is outstanding for our region. Our goal is to continue to let projects in a timely manner. The next four years, we have a program for $2.8 billion to go to construction. We can’t do that by ourselves. We need our partners to make that happen. From the project delivery perspective, we work with our consultants to do the project development, but also the construction inspection, if you will. But, I want to reiterate the importance of the partnership that we have with our communities.
From Sullivan City, the Rio Grande City area, if you will, to Brownsville, about100 miles. There are 32 cities that touch Interstate 2, US 83, I-69 E. So what does that mean? About every three to four miles on average it is another city limit. That is a tremendous challenge for us when it comes to communication and ensuring that all our partners are working together. These projects, increased safety, improved mobility, improved connectivity for our entire region.
Sam Vale mentioned earlier, in one of his comments, about the communities in between. So, we talk about the RGV and Laredo and the US 83 corridor, for example. But what about all the communities in between that are being affected by US 83 and the future I-2. It is imperative that we continue to recognize their needs too.
Economic impact is a large portion of what we do here at TXDOT. Safety, mobility activity, they are right there. But economic impact… we recognize that if you build it, they will come. That is the old saying. And by golly, we have seen that time and time again. So, we will continue to strive to make sure that we are prioritizing the various needs within out region.
Typically, when we talk about the Valley, people think north-south. US 77, US 281, US 83, I-69 E, I-69 C, I-2. But I want to recognize what Andrew (Canon) brought up, the approximated or estimated 1.8 million in population. That means we have to traverse east and west as well. So we’re looking at I-2 current carrying about 160,000 vehicles. In a couple of years, folks, we’re going to be congested. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So, we’re working with various partners to ensure that we’re looking at US 281 Military as a four-lane divided highway, as an example.
Andrew mentioned the I-69 Connector to provide that connectivity east and west. Why is that important? When you when you look at freight and trade, 14 ports of entry in the Pharr District that are interconnected, if you will, one way or another. So, yes, there is a challenge. And the challenge is getting getting the goods across that port of entry. But once it gets here, we need to look at three things, part of the logistics, if you will. How do we split those loads? How do we ensure that they’re being delivered in a timely manner? And how can we ensure that they are safely getting to an interstate? Because, at the end of the day, folks, it needs to get to an interstate. So, projects like the IBTC, or International Bridge Trade Corridor, are imperative, in conjunction with the 365 Tollway. These projects are going to connect five ports of entry to the interstate and get them off the FM roadways. The FM roadways that have communities with lots of schools, basically, commercial properties and things of that nature. We need to be able to move freight and trade to the interstate in an efficient manner. Projects like these will make that happen.
If you look… and I mentioned the east and west, but routes like State Loop 195, which is the US 83 relief route in Starr County – Roma, Escobares, Rio Grande, and La Grulla, basically – into Hidalgo County.
And the East Loop, Eddie Campirano talked a little bit about that. Pete Sepulveda as well. The opportunity to connect the Port of Brownsville to Matamoros, if you will.
So, as we move forward, these are just some of the examples of the many, many challenges that we face here in Pharr. But I’m very proud to say that as your District Engineer, we’re working very, very, closely with all our partners. And I want to continue that communication.
As we look at funding – and Chairman Canales mentioned this earlier – funding is critical. But our job at TxDOT is to ensure project delivery, to deliver the transportation system that we need for our region. And this infrastructure can only be done if we’re all working together, taking responsibility and prioritizing the highest needs. The MPO has done a really good job of making sure that we identify what those priorities are, and in conjunction with TxDOT we will continue to deliver those projects.
I am very excited for our future. The $3.6 billion that is coming our way is outstanding. I think we need a little bit more as represented by the blue on that map. And as we move forward, I believe that our region will continue to grow and be a lifeline not only for Texas, but the rest of the US, from Mexico to Canada.
Editor’s Note: The above commentary was provided by Pedro “Pete” Alvarez, TxDOT’s Pharr District Engineer, at a recent TxDOT Border Trade Advisory Committee meeting. The meeting was held at the McAllen Convention Center. The “Madam Secretary” Alvarez mentioned was Texas Secretary of State Jane Nelson, who chaired the meeting.
Editor’s Note: Here is a video recording of Alvarez’s remarks at the BTAC meeting:
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