WESLACO, RGV – At a luncheon hosted by the Society for Marketing Professional Services-RGV, Pilar Rodriguez, executive director of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, said he would like to see the merger of the two Rio Grande Valley RMAs.
While there have been extensive discussions about the possible merger of the three Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rodriguez says that combining the HCRMA with the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority would also be beneficial, creating “one true regional mobility board.”
“I think that would be the next step for the authority if I were king for the day, you know. I think that would unify … our voice – have one person with one message and all the projects prioritized on a regional level,” said Rodriguez.
As it stands, the sister agencies focus on transportation projects in their respective counties, but they communicate on a near weekly basis about each other’s ongoing and future endeavors. Rodriguez says that the HCRMA tends to look to the CCRMA for guidance and lessons learned as they were created first and are a little ahead with their scheduled work. Still, he says a merger would maximize the potential of both.
“The two RMAs actually complement each other, not only from a project perspective but just from the[ir] strengths and weaknesses …” said Rodriguez. “What Hidalgo RMA’s strength is, is Cameron County’s weakness, and what Cameron County’s strength is, is Hidalgo’s weakness. So, we actually complement each other, and so we work through a lot of issues, … leveraging each other’s strengths.”
Already, the two RMAs have collaborated with the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) on the construction of the FM 1925/Monte Cristo Road corridor that will connect Interstate Highway 69 Central to the Interstate Highway 69 Loop. Like the MPOs, an official merger may never come to fruition, but the two RMAs will most likely continue partnering on projects as funding becomes more elusive.
Recent legislation calls for a pushback on the construction of toll roads, the main revenue source for RMAs to service their project debt. With toll roads off the table, finding money – especially the astronomical sums needing for major projects – becomes all that more difficult.
Rodriguez used the forthcoming 365 Tollway as an example. With a $247 million price tag, the 12.2-mile road will stretch from Anzalduas International Bridge to the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge. Because of its scope, cost and magnitude, Rodriguez says that getting funding for a comparable project today without tolls is almost impossible. Factoring in the growth trends of the area, financing transportation projects becomes even more critical.
“The Valley is expected to grow by a million people in the next 25 years,” said Andrew Canon, executive director of the Hidalgo County MPO. “There’s not a chance we have enough funding to address that growth, so what we have to do is try to figure out how to be smarter with it and how to be more efficient with it.”
Pedro “Pete” Alvarez, Pharr District Engineer for TXDOT, acknowledged the many transportation needs of the Rio Grande Valley. Echoing TXDOT Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr., Alvarez said the agency is ready to help.
“Don’t focus on the money,” said Alvarez. “Focus on having one vision and one voice, prioritizing projects, and the money will take care of itself.”