BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The City of Brownsville hosted a press conference outside City Hall on Monday in honor of a $10 million award from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery Grant Program.
On July, 29, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the City of Brownsville is the only community in Texas to receive $10 million under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Grant Program.
The TIGER Grant supports transportation improvements. According to the TIGERS Fact Sheet of 2016, the Queen Isabella Causeway will expand its width by about four feet to accommodate a 14-foot-wide, two-way pedestrian and bike pathway to South Padre Island.
According to the fact sheet, the causeway for pedestrian and bikers will be one of the longest in the United States and the first of its kind in the state of Texas.
The TIGER grant will also be used to improve Brownsville Metro services, including a new station on the city’s east side.
Brownsville was one of approximately 600 applicants for the TIGER Grant. Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said the award is an affirmation for the community that if the city works together, it can succeed.
“This is truly an honor. Actually, I’m very humbled by it in so many different ways. Communities like Brownsville are in great need,” Martinez said. “There are people that can’t drive, there are people who don’t have cars, there are students that don’t have money and there are a whole lot of folks out there that … don’t have the ability to go from point A to point B.”
Norma Zamora, Brownsville Metro director, said components to the Connecting Communities Project will go to a new passenger transfer station on the east side of Brownsville, replacements of four transit revenue vehicles and improvement of the Brownsville Metro bus stops. Improvements to the bus stops include renovated sidewalks, shelters with benches and bike amenities.
“Island Metro, [McAllen Metro] and Valley Metro provide over 3 million passenger trips per year of which Brownsville Metro provides 1.5 million of those trips,” Zamora said. “The Connecting Community Project will do much to continue the efforts towards our goal to provide seamless regional and efficient connectivity through our metro connect services.”
The TIGER Grant will not only enhance the transit community in Brownsville, but for the cities of McAllen and South Padre Island as well. Metro Connect allows residents of the Rio Grande Valley to transport from one area of the Valley to another.
Jeff Johnston, assistant city manager of McAllen, who used to be assistant city manager of Brownsville, said there were a lot of thoughts about the TIGER Grant Program years ago.
“[The TIGER Grant] is an incredibly large accomplishment for any city especially for one of our Valley cities. We’re Just tickled to death,” Johnston said. “This is an example truly of what you can do regionally when we we work together. From your neighbors to the west, we congratulate the City of Brownsville for their hard work and to the community–looking forward to more and better things in the future.”
Rose Gowen, city commissioner of Brownsville said, the expansion of the Queen Isabella Causeway is a way of adapting to a term called the active tourist. Active tourists would rather bike or walk in a new city whilst on vacation. The bridge will also allow residents to have other modes of transportation.
“This ramp is hugely important because transportation whether it be by car, bus, bike or foot … and so forth is what opens people up to opportunities,” Gowen said. “We have a lot of poor people in our community and a lot of people with needs. So being able to move them around the city, around the region, around the county [and] between cities needs to be one of our major goals–not to mention the major health risk that we have and getting people out of their cars once in awhile to enjoy a walk, a jog or a bike ride is also hugely important.”
U.S. Senator John Cornyn issued a congratulatory statement to the City of Brownsville as a TIGER Grant recipient.
“I want to congratulate Brownsville’s city leader for their hard work and commitment to these important infrastructure projects, which now are one big step closer to reality,” Cornyn said. “The bus system upgrades and the pedestrian bridge between South Padre Island and Port Isabel will have far reaching impacts on not only Brownsville, but the entire coastal region.”
Other dignitaries to speak at the event included South Padre Island Mayor Barry Patel, state Rep. René Oliveira of Brownsville, and the directors of the Brownsville, McAllen and South Padre Island Metros.