HARLINGEN, RGV – Providing direct connectivity from Hidalgo County to South Padre Island is vital to the success of a future causeway, according to leaders with the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority.
Amid the growing excitement for major road projects being developed in the county, CCRMA Executive Director Pete Sepulveda, Jr., spoke about the first-ever collaboration between the RMAs for Cameron and Hidalgo counties in order to support mobility to South Padre Island, arguably the region’s most important tourist destination.
FM 1925, otherwise known as Monte Christo Road in Edinburg, is slated to be expanded in order to provide a vital east-west corridor in the northern part of the Valley. The highway would link Hidalgo County I-69 East, and provide quicker access to the northern part of South Padre Island.
CCRMA is taking the lead on the project, according to Sepulveda.
“We have an agreement in place in that the Cameron County RMA is going to develop it even though part of the project is in Hidalgo,” Sepulveda said. “We are going to develop it to ensure we stay within the same schedule and timeline.”
Sepulveda spoke exclusively to the Rio Grande Guardian at a recent North American Advanced Manufacturing Research and Educational Initiative regional summit held at TSTC-Harlingen.
Sepulveda said CCRMA wants to make sure that FM 1925 is built concurrently with its two other main projects; a second causeway into South Padre Island, and the Outer Parkway project, which is the 15 mile span of road that will begin north of Harlingen, and connect I69-East to the entrance of the new causeway.
Completion for the new causeway is set for April 2020, according to Sepulveda. If the current timeline they have in place holds, the CCRMA can begin the procurement process to select a developer by June of this year.
If they are able to meet the deadline, then a 2020 opening for all of the RMA’s major projects becomes very real, Sepulveda said.
“We want to make sure that…they are complete and open at the same time because providing direct connectivity from Hidalgo County all the way to South Padre Island is extremely important to the success of the second access, and the development of the entire Laguna Madre region,” Sepulveda said.
Another interesting point about the South Padre Island second causeway project, Sepulveda said is that CCRMA has, through its studies, found that on a peak weekend 40 percent of the traffic going to the Island comes from Hidalgo County. “That is huge. It really makes it a regional transportation project,” he said.
Meanwhile in Hidalgo County, leaders with their Regional Mobility Authority say they are confident they can break ground on an all-new corridor linking Ports of Entry in Pharr and Mission by this summer.
Initially announcing the new timeline at the NAAMREI regional summit at TSTC-Harlingen, HCRMA executive director Pilar Rodriguez said they plan to break ground on the $300 million State Highway 365 by July, and will have it complete by mid-2018.
“It’s an all-new roadway and all new location, and it runs between Military Highway and the IBWC floodway,” Rodriguez said. “We are supposed to have it complete by mid-2018. June or July, we hope to be operational. It looks like we are going to be able to break ground hopefully by July 2015. It basically starts at the Pharr International Port of Entry, and goes all the way to the Anzalduas Port of Entry.”
The RMA plans to have its $90 million International Bridge Trade Corridor (IBTC) on a similar timeline with Highway 365, Rodriguez said.
The IBTC name is preliminary, and will eventually get a designation when it is put on the highway system. The corridor is planned to be an extension of 365 or Highway 68 when it is complete.
The IBTC, as defined by the RMA, will be a divided two-lane toll road that will span for nearly 16 miles, connecting Pharr and Alliance bridges with US83. The RMA is in charge of the project, which includes development, design, construction, operation and maintenance.
Rodriguez said the RMA only has about 50 percent of the “local match” to fund the project.
“We have to raise more money so we are out there looking for how we are going to cover the other half of the costs,” Rodriguez said. “We are still sticking to our projections which are similar to 365. We have some time to close that gap. We are optimistic about when we can close that gap.”