RIO GRANDE CITY, RGV – Rio Grande Guardian publisher Mark Hanna will have a LIVE conversation on Facebook today with Starr County Judge Eloy Vera.

The event starts at 11 a.m. and can be watched on the Rio Grande Guardian‘s Facebook page.

“We are excited about having an in-depth conversation with Judge Vera so we can learn more about all the growth that is happening in Starr County and the big transportation and retail projects currently underway,” said Hanna.

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera

Many hot topics for Starr County are likely be discussed, including a major retail development in Rio Grande City, a relief route for Rio Grande City, border security, the possibility of a new international bridge for Roma, an east-west lateral connecting Roma to Edinburg, and an east-west lateral connecting Falcon Dam to Port Mansfield.

However, top of the list for the livestream conversation will surely be the Ruta 54 (Route 54) project.

“We are trying to promote La Ruta 54, which is the road that connects Monterrey to Roma, because we feel that that is our lifeline,” Vera told the Rio Grande Guardian.

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian after his recent State of the County address, Vera said he and mayors from communities between Monterrey and Roma met in Cerralvo, a city in Nuevo Leon, to discuss Ruta 54. He said both Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca and Nuevo Leon Gov. Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, who were at the Cerralvo meeting, have pledged to make the road safe.

“We want to promote that road. For some reason, for many years, it [Ruta 54] was seen as unsafe, and now both governors from Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas are committed to the safety of the road so that hopefully we start getting more people coming down that road,” Vera said.

Vera said the reason for focusing on Route 54 is to bring increased economic vitality to Starr County. A lot of fresh produce from the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, is carried by 18-wheelers around Monterrey and onto the Rio Grande Valley. But, it does not cross at Roma, which, as the crow flies, is the nearest Texas city to Monterrey.

“Our goal is to get some of the businesses to do business on this side of the river, here in Starr County,” Vera said.

“We have been missing out on that so we want that to happen, that’s the only way we are going to grow as far as economic growth.”

Ruta 54 Coalition

Among the dignitaries to meet with the governors of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas in Cerralvo in March were Starr County Judge Eloy Vera (third from left) and Rio Grande City Mayor Joel Villarreal (second from right).

On Friday, the City of Roma will be hosting the Ruta 54 Coalition. This group is named after the expressway between Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, and Miguel Aleman and Camargo, in Tamaulipas. Miguel Aleman is across the Rio Grande from Roma. Camargo is across the Rio Grande from Rio Grande City. The area is known as the “La Region Riberena.”

The Ruta 54 Coalition consists of mayors from each municipality that encompasses the region as well as entrepreneurs and economic development specialists.

“Our area’s economy relies heavily on Mexican commerce and the members of Ruta 54 understand the importance of strengthening the relationship with their partners south of the Rio Grande,” said Rose Benavidez, president of Starr County Industrial Area Foundation.

Benavidez said Friday’s event will also serve as an opportunity to counter some of the negative rhetoric that inflicts the region and highlight the positive economic impact produced by border communities.

Invited guests include Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos as well as Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Texas Department of Public Safety representatives.

“The coalition has been meeting quarterly and has put forth a detailed plan of action to help revive this dynamic route and continue to increase the traffic that crosses our borders,” Judge Vera said.

Friday’s Ruta 54 Coalition meeting will be held at the Casa del Rio, 205 West Convent Ave., Roma. The meeting will start at 10 a.m. and finish at 12 noon.