State Rep. César J. Blanco

AUSTIN, Texas – State Rep. César J. Blanco and other border lawmakers want their region to receive the maximum allowed set-aside of federal transportation funds designated by federal law.

To achieve this, Blanco, D-El Paso, has filed House Bill (HB) 2374, which would require the Governor of Texas to designate every fiscal year no less than five percent of Texas’ State Block Grant for Coordinated Border Infrastructure Projects.

Blanco is founder and chairman of the Texas House Border Caucus.

State Rep. René Oliveira

At present, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act allows – but does not require – the Governor of a border State to designate up to five percent of the State’s Surface Transportation Block Program (STBG) fund for border infrastructure projects eligible under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act-Legacy Users Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program.

Blanco pointed out that FAST Act authorizes $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for highway and transportation programs. A provision in this legislation allows states to transfer a portion of their STBG funds for projects outlined under the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program each year over the life of the bill.

Blanco’s HB 2374 is jointly authored by four border lawmakers – state Reps. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, Armando Martinez, D-Weslaco, and René Oliveira, D-Brownsville.

“Our border region is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Ensuring our Texas border region gets its fair share of resources is critical for its economic development. Investing in our border infrastructure will not only improve local economies but will also help facilitate and expedite trade at our ports of entry strengthening our State economy,” Blanco said.

“This bill seeks to maximize funding available for border infrastructure projects under the federal FAST Act. I am proud to have several respected and influential border Representatives joint-authoring this bill with me. I look forward to working with them in bringing our border region the resources it needs and deserves.”

State Rep. Armando ‘Mando’ Martinez, D-Weslaco.

Rep. Martinez, vice chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, said he fully supports HB 2374.

“I am proud to be a joint author of this bill by Rep. Blanco which will allow us to improve our international bridge infrastructure, and in turn, grow our local, state, and federal economies. Delays at our international bridges are not just an inconvenience, they hurt our economy,” Martinez said.

“Every minute of delay at our ports of entry creates an economic loss of $116 million dollars. At current infrastructure levels that cost is: 54,000 jobs foregone, $6 billion lost in economic output; $3 billion in lost wages, and $1.2 billion lost in tax revenue.”

Rep. Oliveira, chairman of the House Committee on Business and Industry, said: “Our infrastructure receives exceptional wear and tear. What passes through our cities and counties affects the economy of the entire country. When we invest in border infrastructure we invest in the entire state and nation. Texas’ economic success depends on it.”