MCALLEN, Texas – The chief construction engineer for the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority has welcomed McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos’ efforts to pull in more federal dollars for the Hidalgo County Loop.
Ramon Navarro spoke about the various segments of the project at a recent McAllen Economic Development Corporation board meeting.
“First of all, we’d like to thank Mayor Villalobos for advocating for the project,” Navarro said. “As you know we’re in charge of… we’ve been tasked with the Hidalgo County Loop.”
Navarro continued: “The loop projects consists of approximately $1.7 billion worth of roadwork and infrastructure. We’re willing to receive any grants or federal money that can help accelerate this project. We will work hand in hand with him (Mayor Villalobos) to move forward on that construction.”
As first revealed in the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Villalobos is in discussions with his counterparts in Pharr, Edinburg, and Mission to secure more federal dollars for the county loop project.
The Hidalgo County Loop is being built in different segments. Some segments are expected to be tolled, others will be free. One segment that is set to be tolled is titled the 365 Project. It will run from the Pharr International Bridge west to the Anzalduas International Bridge.
“Immediately we have constructed section three we are constructing segment one and two of the 365 toll project.” Navarro said. “We’re currently about… we’ve paid out about $49 million inclusive of this month. We’re 17% in production, and approximately 18 percent of time, so we’re going hand in hand.”
Navarro continued: “Our main issue here is the value engineering change proposals, which saved us approximately $38 million on the project. These are revisions and amendments to the buildings and the materials, etc. Everything is within standard. We’re hoping to capture those by the end of the year, and really double our production.”
Another segment that will be part of the Hidalgo County Loop is titled the IBTC Project. IBTC stands for International Bridge Trade Corridor. This will run from the Pharr International Bridge east to the Donna International Bridge and the Progreso International Bridge. It will connect with I-2 in Donna and connect up with the State Highway 58 project that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is developing.
“And as far as the IBTC project, this is the east side of the loop, outside of McAllen, this is in San Juan, Dona and Progreso, connecting the Progreso and Donna bridges to Interstate 2. This will go and lead to the SH 68 section that TxDOT is doing and looping back up into the 186 area, pulling you into I-69 C,” Navarro told the MEDC board.
“As far as the IBTC (is concerned), we are diligently pursuing the elusive environmental classification. TxDOT just punted on us again and moved it to 2023. So, hopefully by mid 2023, we continue on with the design and advanced engineering on this project. And we’re looking for a letting no later than 2027 with these new revisions.”
On the IBTC project, Navarro added: “We’ll be moving on IBTC here shortly. We did apply and partner with TXDOT for a $127 million grant, the mega grant. The federal monies that were outside the city of McAllen did receive an infrastructure grant. We’ve yet to hear anything on the mega grant but we did apply partner with TxDOT on that. Hopefully we are fortunate enough to be a recipient and we would truly accelerate this project in a in a beneficial way.”
Some of the members of the MEDC board of directors had questions for Navarro about the Hidalgo County Loop project. One question focused on a segment known as Section C. This is being built in a largely rural part of the county will run north from I-2 at the La Joya Bypass and then loop eastwards to I-69 C north of Edinburg. Navarro was asked for a timeline on Section C.
“We have not captured the ability to do the environmental documentation on that,” Navarro responded. “We need to start the risk assessments, etc., with our federal partners, with TxDOT or state partners, local partners.”
Navarro said of Section C of the loop:
“Last time that was visited was probably back in 2016/2017. Of course, we all know everything has changed, the environment, the economics, and of course development is kicking in. There was a decline for a time but we’d be happy to rekindle all those discussions and revisit that. But unfortunately when we go through all these iterations, it’s not free. And sometimes as far as traffic or traffic impact analysis (is concerned) all of those are high high dollar items. And they have to be updated every two to three years. And that’s forecasted out for the next 10 to 12 years. It’s not very efficient for us to go and spend money on those discussions. But, like I said, if we have got advocates that are ready to push this forward, we’re willing to go to the table and start a discussion.”
Editor’s Note: Here is an audio recording of Ramon Navarro’s presentation to McAllen Economic Development Corporation:
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