VideoAlvarez: TxDOT wants to build a relief route to US 83 in Starr County

The proposed State Loop 195 is being looked at as part of the US 83 Regional Corridor Study.

PHARR, Texas – There are about 24 traffic lights along U.S. 83 between Sullivan City and Roma. If TxDOT has its way, motorists will one day be able to bypass all of them.

In an exclusive video interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Pete Alvarez said a parallel highway to US 83 is being envisaged for Starr County.

Alvarez is the Pharr District Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation. The district includes Starr County.

Alvarez said it is possible that a new highway for Starr County will be included in the recommendations that come out of a study TxDOT is currently conducting. The US 83 Regional Corridor Study was recommended in the 2021 Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan.

“So we refer to that as State Loop 195. State Loop 195 will be the US 83 relief route and in essence it will provide an alternative corridor to improve safety, to relieve congestion and improve mobility and really connectivity in entire region,” Alvarez said.

“And so there’ll be a parallel route within Starr County. If you look at Starr County, (it has a) 60,000-plus population and when you take into account all the visitors coming from Mexico, that community is growing. So, we need to make sure that we have adequate east-west movement.”

The overall study is needed, Alvarez said, because of a projected growth in truck movements. In 2021, over 164 million tons of freight moved along US 83 between Laredo and the Valley.  That number is forecasted to increase nearly 400%, to well over 790 million tons by 2050. 

The study is zeroing in on the region between Palmview, in the Valley, to Mangana-Hein Road in south Laredo. The study will also take in State Loop 20 to the intersection with US 59 in east Laredo. 

“So back in 2021, as part of the Texas-Mexico Border Transportation Master Plan, we identified that there was a need for a study. There’s a lot of movement, if you will, between the Valley and Laredo. And so US 83 is a major route,” Alvarez said.

“The whole thought and idea was, okay, how do we improve safety? How do we improve mobility? How do we improve rural connectivity, while providing economic development opportunities along the route? And then, also, hurricane evacuation. US 83 is part of our hurricane evacuation.”

TxDOT is inviting local residents to review a Corridor Development Plan that recommends short-, mid, and long-term transportation improvements along the study corridor.

“The purpose of the study, which began in Spring 2022, is to better understand the study corridor’s transportation operational and safety characteristics and needs and determine what types of improvements would enhance corridor safety, mobility, rural connectivity, and hurricane evacuation,” TxDOT said, when it announced the study.

“This corridor provides a vital connection between the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo in south Texas, serving many small rural communities and the Texas-Mexico border region.”

TxDOT added: “As TxDOT moves towards ‘Ending the Streak’ of deaths on Texas highways, this study plays an important role in addressing safety concerns for the Rio Grande Valley and the Laredo area.”

Here is the Guardian’s video interview with Alvarez:

Editor’s Note: Click here to read an earlier story on TxDOT’s US 83 Regional Corridor Study.

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