As mayor of Pharr and as vice-chairman of the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization, the need for additional transportation and infrastructure funding for key projects is critical for the future livelihood not only in the Rio Grande Valley, but for the economic vitality of our state and nation.

A surgeon by trade, I know first-hand the damage that a blocked vein, artery or vessel can cause to the human body, limiting the flow of necessary oxygen and nutrients to our organs and tissues and leading to serious complications.

What is a doctor’s prescription in this case? Take steps to alleviate the current blockage and prevent future clots so that veins flow freely and the body functions as it should. The same advice rings true when looking at a transportation plan that will affect our future.

Due to our tremendous population growth in Texas, we presently suffer severely congested highways, roadways, and interchanges. Consequences include collisions, traffic delays, and a general slowdown in productivity in getting goods, services, and people where they need to be. As our state population continues growing at an increasingly rapid pace, adding 30,000 new vehicles to the state’s roadways every month, we must act now to adequately expand and develop our highways and roadways to accommodate growth and ensure our transportation system functions effectively and efficiently.

Our highways, land ports of entry, and railways currently serve as a channel for domestic and foreign goods. According to the Texas Comptroller, Texas has accounted for nearly $650 billion in international trade in 2015 with $365 billion traveling through our Texas Mexico border. The Pharr International Bridge has had unparalleled growth in both imports and exports. Our latest trade numbers rank us as the 6th most important gateway in the U.S. out of roughly 475 land ports, seaports and airports, and the 4th largest and most important port of entry with Mexico, the U. S.’s top trading partner. We must continue to make crucial infrastructure improvements to our ports of entry, through the creation of connectivity to I-69, and by the expansion of I-69 Central.

Improving transportation infrastructure remains a critical priority for the city of Pharr and for the Rio Grande Valley region. With the increase of vehicle and cargo traffic, the state leaves the Rio Grande Valley cities and county stakeholders’ in a vulnerable position by not providing adequate highway infrastructure for their constituents. Without state funding for significant projects like the I-69 Central Interchange Expansion, total funding for new highway construction and maintenance will continue to decline sharply as borrowed money and one-time funding sources are exhausted.

Currently, freight traffic and passenger vehicles share the same roadways, causing congestion along the I-69 and I-2 interchange, leading to collisions, delays, and mounting frustration among our citizens. These conditions are unacceptable to our families in the Rio Grande Valley. Just as a physician would intervene with treatment at the onset of blocked veins to prevent further damage, the urgency to intervene in our transportation needs is now, before the situation worsens.

As a region, we are grateful for the continued support by our Rio Grande Valley delegation, especially State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and State Representative and Transportation Committee Vice Chairman Armando Martinez, who work diligently to voice our needs and represent our interests in Austin. We are appreciative of the attention and focus that Texas Transportation Commission has given our area and for supporting our transportation initiatives through TxDOT funding. And we ask for the Commission’s continued support as we move forward this legislative session and work to secure funding for critical transportation projects in our District.