MCALLEN, RGV – The expansion or reconstruction of the Pharr interchange at Expressway 83 and State Highway 281 is one of state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa’s top priorities for his legislative agenda.

Every other year, from January to May, the Texas Legislature meets at the state capitol in Austin. According to the Texas House of Representatives’ website, the legislature considers proposed laws and resolutions as well as the appropriation of all funds for the operation of state government.

The 85th Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 10, 2017 and adjourns May 29, 2017.

Hinojosa, the senator for District 20, said renovations to the Pharr interchange has been made a priority. It will take approximately $76 million for expansion and $140 million for complete reconstruction, he told the Rio Grande Guardian. Hinojosa said he’d rather have it redone so that the Rio Grande Valley has the capacity for continued growth.

“The Pharr interchange that connects Pharr, Edinburg, McAllen and the eastern part of Hidalgo County has become a bottleneck and people are complaining because of the delays and the long lines,” Hinojosa said. “We’re working with TxDOT [Texas Department of Transportation] and trying to make sure we have the funding necessary to… expand the Pharr interchange. That is an indication of the tremendous growth that is taking place here in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Asked if the Pharr interchange is a top legislative priority, Hinojosa said: “It is one of my top priorities because it is a top priority for this community.”

Other items on Hinojosa’s legislative agenda include continued growth of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to accommodate the needs of students. This includes increased funding to expand the medical school. Hinojosa said he thinks this will attract new specialists in diabetes, infectious diseases and obesity.

Hinojosa also highlighted the importance of education. He said approximately 90,000 additional students are registered in public schools every year so there needs to be enough funding to cover the new students.

“This is where the action is – our young people are getting a first class education,” Hinojosa said. “Even those who leave the Valley to receive education… come back because of business opportunities, the medical school [and] the growth that is taking place in the economy. This is really a place that is bustling with a lot of activity.”

Hinojosa made his comments in an interview prior to speaking at a RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce legislative affairs luncheon held at the Embassy Suites in McAllen.