MCALLEN, RGV – A vice president to UT-Rio Grande Valley has suggested Elon Musk be approached to build a light rail system for the region.
Former state Rep. Veronica Gonzales was moderator at a “Legislative Report Card Luncheon” hosted by the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
During the discussion, Gonzales asked state Rep. Armando Martinez of Weslaco to give a report on important transportation legislation passed during the 86th Legislature.
One of the items Martinez flagged was a piece of legislation he and state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., passed which created a regional transit authority for the Valley.
Martinez pointed out the new regional transit authority could, one day, usher in a light rail system. After Martinez made his comments, Gonzales said:
“We have SpaceX coming and we will be having all these rocket launches. Maybe we can get Elon Musk to build us some rail down here.”
Gonzales is vice president for government and community relations at UTRGV.
In 2012, Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, proposed a Hyperloop. According to Wikipedia Musk’s idea is to incorporate “reduced-pressure tubes in which pressurized capsules ride on air bearings driven by linear induction motors and axial compressors.”
Wikipedia notes that a Hyperloop is a sealed tube or system of tubes through which a pod may travel free of air resistance or friction conveying people or objects at high speed while being very efficient.
Other legislators to speak at the Legislative Report Card Luncheon were state Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen, and state Reps. Sergio Muñoz of Mission, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Bobby Guerra of McAllen, and Oscar Longoria of La Joya.
House Bill 71 was authored by Rep. Martinez and sponsored by Sen. Eddie Lucio. The legislation creates a regional transit authority that has the power of eminent domain and the authority to issue bonds and charge fees.
When Rep. Martinez mentioned his regional transit authority at the luncheon he linked it to the recent merger of the three metropolitan planning organizations. Both were examples of Rio Grande Valley leaders thinking and planning regionally, he said.
“When we talk about the spirit of regionalism and regionalizing our MPOs, we wanted to create a regional transit authority so we could get from any point within the Valley and have an alternative means for transportation. That can also include rail,” Martinez said.
The new regional transit authority will be administered by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, Martinez noted.
“The COG (council of government) is going to be the board of our regional transit authority. When you look around our expressway there is not a lot of room to expand and widen that expressway. I know Ron Garza is here and he was very instrumental in making this work,” Martinez said.
Garza is executive director of the LRGVDC and he was in the audience at the luncheon.
Martinez also gave a shout out to Andrew Canon, executive director of Hidalgo County MPO and McAllen transit officials.
“After three sessions the dream became a reality. We look forward to regionalism. There are a lot more dollars we can draw on if we act regionally,” Martinez added.
For his part, Garza referenced the regional transit authority during a recent Facebook LIVE event hosted by the Rio Grande Guardian.
“A very exciting bill with regards to transportation, through the leadership of Rep. Martinez and Sen. Lucio, was the passing of the regional transit authority,” Garza said.
“The governor signed that into law this year so we are very excited with that. Talking about the regional MPO and now a regional transit authority, that really is the icing on the cake because that regional transit authority is going to lay the framework for unifying transit organizations, additional transportation planning and what may be, one day in the future, a light rail in the Rio Grande Valley, which is very exciting.”
State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg, who chairs the House Committee on Transportation, also spoke recently about the new Valley’s new regional transit authority.
In a podcast with the Rio Grande Guardian, Canales praised Martinez for passing the transit authority legislation.
“The Rio Grande Valley is one the cusp of even more explosive growth and having better ways to move people to their jobs is absolutely pertinent,” Canales said. “I am looking forward to working with him (Martinez) to make sure the resources are the there to fulfill the dream.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Elon Musk in a prototype of a Hyperloop.