MCALLEN, Texas – The State of Texas and the federal government are not doing a good enough job in investing in critical infrastructure for the Rio Grande Valley.

This is the view of state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, chair of the Texas House Committee on Transportation.

Canales made his views known in a hard-hitting speech at a ceremonial signing for the so-called Full Cargo Donation Acceptance Agreement, which will see the City of McAllen donate funds to the federal government for Gateway to Growth.

Gateway to Growth is the name of the project currently being developed to bring full northbound and southbound cargo operations to Anzalduas International Bridge.

In his remarks, Canales said he was approached about six years ago to help bring full cargo operations to Anzalduas International Bridge.

“That was halfway through my legislative career. And we have worked tirelessly with the City of McAllen to make this happen. There have been people, like Judge Cortez… this has been in the works for decades,” Canales said, referring to Hidalgo County Judge and former McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez.

“But that underscores the problem and I know we are celebrating something today. It underscores that we have got to fight tooth and nail for every dollar we bring down here. We have to fight twice as hard as the rest of the state of Texas,” Canales said.

“When this is an economic engine… so goes the Rio Grande Valley, so goes not only the Texas economy but the United States economy. When the rest of the world was in a recession, the Rio Grande Valley was not. And that is because of the ports of entry. They are billion dollar economic engines.”

Canales then hit out at both the state and federal governments.

“We have failed to invest what we need to invest to secure not only our border through infrastructure but to secure our economic success. It is absolutely astounding that the leadership of Texas and the United States government… that we have to fight this hard to do something that makes so much common sense.”

Canales said he applauded everybody that has worked on the Anzalduas Bridge project.

“In the short time (I have been involved), I know how hard it has been. It has been truly discouraging but encouraging at the same time to know we have a team that is ready to fight tirelessly for the Rio Grande Valley. And I hope the leadership of the State of Texas and the leadership of the United States takes note of what is happening today because this is a drop in the bucket. This is budget dust in what they should be investing in the Rio Grande Valley. And if they paid attention to the profit and the exponential growth that will transpire by this minimal investment, they should take note and invest much more.”

The donations acceptance program allows the owners of Anzalduas International Bridge to provide funding to the federal government for federal inspection facilities at the land port. The bridge is co-owned by the cities of McAllen, Mission, Hidalgo and Granjeno.

Ana Garcia, district director for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, read a statement from Sen. Cornyn at the ceremony.

“Dear friends, I would like to congratulate you on securing an agreement to move forward with the Anzalduas Gateway to Growth project. With this project the Anzalduas International Bridge leadership team have reached another milestone as they prepare to expand operations at the Anzalduas International Bridge to include full cargo commercial traffic. This project will increase border trade with our friends in Mexico while fueling economic growth and prosperity to the entire border region,” Garcia said, on behalf of Cornyn.

“Although I cannot be with you today to to celebrate this symbolic ceremonial signing, I remain to supporting cross-border trade and this project. Ensuring the Rio Grande Valley and the state of Texas secure their role as the premier international trade hub for the United States will continue to be a top priority.”

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen also spoke at the ceremony.

“This is a very positive day for our economy, for the creation of jobs, for South Texas, for the state of Texas and Mexico,” Hinojosa said.

“Our economy continues to grow and is key to the jobs and our business here in the Rio Grande Valley. Over 20 years ago the trade with Mexico was around $54 billion. But 20 years later it is now close to $300 billion. The growth will continue. If you look at the Pharr Bridge it does over $35 billion a year in trade with Mexico. And now, with Anzalduas coming on board, the trade will only increase.”

Hinojosa said there has been great teamwork among the stakeholders.

“It is a great example of working together as a team, as a partnership, the federal government, the state, the local governmental entities, the private sector, and Mexico, making sure that we provide the resources that we need to expand and invest in the infrastructure.”

During the most recent legislative session, Hinojosa said, Senate Bill 1334 was passed, thanks to the efforts of the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation. Hinojosa said the legislation will allow governmental entities, cities or counties that own bridges to be able to issue bonds to invest in our federal bridges.

“That is huge,” Hinojosa said. “We are expediting the growth with our trade with Mexico. And then, with the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, again, it is just another way of saying that the future for us here in Texas comes from the south and the economic growth. And they (Mexico) are key partners.”

Hinojosa thanked the leadership in McAllen, mentioning Mayor Javier Villalobos and former Mayor Jim Darling, along with the city commission. He also thanked Pete Alvarez, TxDOT’s engineer for the Pharr district.

“Pete Alvarez is the district engineer. He works very closely with us. The state invested $22 million to get this done and to get this expedited. And to me, I always talk about us working as a team, everybody has their responsibilities, but what is important is we cooperate and coordinate to make sure that at the end of the day, we are creating more jobs, bettering the quality of life for our families and helping our businesses grow,” Hinojosa said.

“Again, I want to thank everybody for the role they have played. I want to thank my partners, the Valley delegation. We have the best delegation in the state of Texas. We know our community and we fight together as a team. God bless you all and thank you.”

Judge Cortez also spoke at the event.

“We want our families that chose to live here to have opportunity. We have to have a way for them to earn a living. We are also home to five international bridges, we ought to take advantage of it in every way that we can,” Cortez said.

“You have heard all the talk about how important international trade is with Mexico. How did we get here? We learned a very important lesson that we all know exists. And that is when you work together, good things happen.”

Alvarez, the TxDOT engineer, also spoke at the event. Alvarez said a few words spring to mind: transportation infrastructure, regionalization, working in partnership.

“All these things are what is needed here in the RGV. And this is a great example of how things can come together when we work together,” Alvarez said.

“I want to recognize the contributions of the local governments. It makes it a heck of a lot easier to say yes to invest state and federal funds when the local governments put up half the money. And so, thank you, local governments for your participation, your realizing how important investment is, leveraging the dollar, as they say.”

Alvarez said the Valley has 14 international crossings and they all work together.

“We are getting our better share and we will continue to work forward. The idea here is continued local support.”

Other speakers at the City of McAllen event were state Reps. Sergio Munoz of Mission and R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen.

McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez was the final speaker. He said Anzalduas International Bridge was not in competition with other land ports of entry in the Valley.

“I think the show here today really ought to tell us how important this is. This is not competing against others in the Rio Grande Valley. In fact, I am going to be bold enough to give a shout out to the City of Pharr. The City of Pharr has done a tremendous job with their bridge and they continue to do it,” Rodriguez said.

“As you know, as you have heard, they (Pharr) are looking to expand their bridge. We are all for it. We are 100 percent behind expansion of international bridges. Our message has never changed. We have always, from the very beginning, some 20 years ago and then we picked up the flag, as Terry (Canales) said, six or seven years ago… we need more bridges, we need more capacity for cargo.”

Rodriguez concluded his remarks by saying it was an amazing day for McAllen.

“We have got one international bridge (Pharr) that really shoulders the entire burden of what we call commerce coming into the state of Texas through the Rio Grande Valley. And so this (Anzalduas) is going to be the second. Think about that. Only the second bridge in our region to be able to do this (move fully loaded cargo). So, absolutely, this is an amazing day. A day that has become because of all of the work of people around this room including the people at this table.”


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