BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The U.S. Department of Transportation has just announced this year’s recipients for the Tiger Grant Program and one of the selected cities is the City of Brownsville.

In this instance, Tiger stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.

Brownsville City Commissioner Rose Gowen said the $10 million grant will allow for substantial improvements to Brownsville Metro and a pedestrian and bicycle lane on the Queen Isabella Causeway that links Port Isabel to South Padre Island.

Dr. Rose Gowen
Dr. Rose Gowen

“It is a stunning accomplishment to be awarded a TIGER VIII grant this year,” Dr. Gowen said. “Not only because it represents substantial improvements to Brownsville Metro, but also because it will build an unprecedented bicycle and pedestrian protected connection between Port Isabel and South Padre Island. It was a pleasure to work with our partners on this one of a kind initiative.”

The Brownsville project that so impressed DoT is called “The Connecting Communities Project”. The Connecting Communities Project aims to improve and rebuild transit and pedestrian/ bicycle facilities in the area.

The Connecting Communities application was developed by the City of Brownsville Office of Grant Management & Community Development, Brownsville Metro, and Texas A&M Transportation Institute, in collaboration with application partners.

In addition, the Connecting Communities application received letters of support from: Texas Transit Association; Rails-To-Trails Conservancy; the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority; Brownsville Metropolitan Planning Organization; City of Brownsville; City of McAllen; City of South Padre Island; City of Port Isabel; City of Los Fresnos; Community Development Corporation of Brownsville; buildingcommunityWORKSHOP; United Brownsville; the University of Texas School of Public Health; the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Parking & Transportation Development; Lower Rio Grande Development Council – Valley Metro; and Valley Transit Company, Inc.

“The U.S. Department of Transportation recognized that the City of Brownsville TIGER project, which will connect communities along the Rio Grande Valley through various modes of transportation, as one of the 40 most feasible and important projects in the nation,” U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville said.

The Tiger Discretionary Grant Program stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery. The grant program allows the DoT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that are deemed promising on a national level.  This year 40 cities around the nation were chosen, with Brownsville the only community in Texas to receive the grant.

“For the eighth year running, TIGER will inject critical infrastructure dollars into communities across the country,” U.S. Department of Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said. “This unique program rewards innovative thinking and collaborative solutions to difficult and sometimes dangerous transportation problems.  A great TIGER program doesn’t just improve transportation; it expands economic opportunity and transforms a community.”

The city of Brownsville has developed this project into two core components broken down and consisting of individual phases within them. Component one is dedicated to bus transit such as repairing a regional transit maintenance facility and improving 50 bus stops. Component 2 is focused on widening the Queen Isabella Causeway to accommodate a larger bike pathway to South Padre Island.  Both components have been developed to improve transit opportunities by connecting rural colonias to urban areas and update all sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“City of Brownsville employees, working with local municipalities across the Rio Grande Valley and state officials and agencies in the area were able to leverage our resources to secure $10 million in federal funds, which will help the City of Brownville acquire more buses that will help people commute throughout the Valley,” Congressman Vela said. “The project will also expand the Queen Isabella Causeway to include a bike lane that will boost economic development and tourism. This project will add to the quality of life for people in the Rio Grande Valley and help create jobs across many industries in South Texas.”

The first component will consist of repairing a regional transit maintenance facility, establishing a new passenger transfer station, purchasing eight transit replacement buses, and fixing 50 bus stops.

1.    Component 1A: A three-phased improvement program for Brownsville Metro’s operations and maintenance facility
Phase I: Rehabilitation of maintenance facility
Phase II: Site safety and function improvements
Phase III: Addition of a new eastside transfer station

2.   Component 1B: Includes the replacement of seven METRO Connect transit revenue vehicles and the procurement of one additional spare vehicle for sustainable growth rate (SGR) and capacity improvements; and
3.  Component 1C: Improvements to Brownsville Metro bus stops, including: ADA-compliant sidewalks, ADA-accessibility ramps, shelters with benches, and bike amenities.

The second component is centralized on widening the Queen Isabella Causeway by four feet to make room for a 14-foot-wide, two-way pedestrian and bike pathway to South Padre Island.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, noting that the project will be a benefit to the residents of the region, has praised the Connecting Communities Project. The benefits assessed by the USDOT include, the promotion of employment opportunities to rural areas by connecting them to all urbanized areas and the facilitation of different modes of transportation. The project is said by USDOT, to renew the reliability of transit in all the residents.

Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez said U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Vela, State Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, and State Rep. René O. Oliveira were all instrumental in supporting the City of Brownsville’s Connecting Communities application.

“I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Transportation for recognizing not only the need in this area, but the City’s determination to bring the very best resources to Brownsville residents,” Martinez said. “As Brownsville stands at the forefront of progress and momentum continues to build, we must continue to aspire to reach the greatest heights in the quest for economic prosperity and first-rate quality of life.”