Audio: An exclusive interview with the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation

WESLACO, Texas – State Rep. Terry Canales recently brought good news to the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization.

At an RGVMPO board meeting, the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation spoke about a large infusion of funds for the eagerly-awaited International Bridge Trade Corridor (IBTC), a project that will ensure a safer route for trucks going to and from the Pharr International Bridge and the Donna International Bridge.

“It was at the forefront of my legislative agenda to secure that funding, especially with a budget surplus of over $30 billion,” Canales said, in an exclusive audio interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service

Canales said he fought to secure $200 million for the IBTC project. He ended up with $150 million, for which the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority is grateful. He said he won support in the legislature by stressing that developing the IBTC was good for border security.

“Earlier this week we got the news that the Governor was making an announcement that they were going to pull $150 million out of the discretionary funding, which would bring us this go round in the UTP (Unified Transportation Plan) to almost $3.6 billion. When you look at that in the grand scheme of things, the Valley in its entirety used to get about $600 million. We are over 500 percent from $600 million to 3.6 billion. It’s an incredible leap in funding.”

Canales said one of the reasons the Valley is now getting more transportation dollars was the creation of a unified MPO. Previously there were three, Hidalgo County, Brownsville, and Harlingen-San Benito.

“We are now the fifth largest MPO. We are fifth in line for funding. It creates a funding stream like we’ve never seen.”

Canales said the unity shown at the regional level needs to be replicated at the local level. He praised Cameron County for having a unified transportation plan and slammed Hidalgo County for allowing its four county commissioners to do their own thing. 

“Cameron County runs a unified transportation plan, meaning although they have precincts the commissioners aren’t in charge of every single dollar in their precinct when it comes to transportation funding. What we’ve seen, unquestionably, is that Cameron County is moving at the speed of light, and Hidalgo County is crawling,” Canales said.

“The one major factor is the division of the precinct dollars and the way that it’s been run (in Hidalgo County). We know that Cameron County is running way more efficiently. And not only is it hamstringing… we’re hamstringing Cameron County. Cameron County would love to see us move to a unified plan. I would love to see us move to a unified plan. We can’t have one MPO but have two counties operating completely differently. It doesn’t make sense, when we know one is way more efficient.”

Canales added: “We don’t have to be great innovators, but great imitators and all we’ve got to do is imitate what Cameron County is doing and it would move the entire region including Cameron… (it) would move faster, because we would be moving faster. This is good for everybody and what it’s going to require is commissioners giving up some of their power. And so I said it earlier, it’s not something that’s politically prudent for me to say because these are my county commissioners, but it’s the right thing to do. It needs to be said, it needs to be done. And if they won’t do it voluntarily, then it will be something we talk about at the Capitol next session.”


Editor’s Note: The above news story is the second in a two-part series on the recent RGV Metropolitan Planning Organization board meeting. Click here to read and watch Part One.  

Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service now posts its audio stories on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Amazon Music. So, sign up to receive alerts through your favorite audio platform.

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