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Pictured above are Tom Logan, executive director of Valley Metro, Ron Whitlock, executive director of The Shepard Group, Maria Elena Cavazos, secretary of economic development for Rio Bravo, and Marga Lopez, director of Donna International Bridge.

DONNA, RGV – A new international bus service is starting soon between Donna and Rio Bravo to cater to Saturday shoppers.

The service is a collaboration between Valley Metro, an agency of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, the municipalities of Donna and Rio Bravo, the State of Tamaulipas, and The Shepard Group.

Valley Metro buses will pick up passengers at the new Walmart Superstore on Salinas Boulevard and Expressway 83, and the HEB in downtown Donna and take them to the Congressman Rubén Hinojosa Park & Ride Bus Depot at the Donna Bridge.

From there passengers can board one of the Amigo buses that run from the Donna Bridge to downtown Rio Bravo.

“This is a win-win for the people of the Mid Valley and Rio Bravo,” said Marga Lopez, director of the Donna International Bridge. “We have strong cultural ties and family ties. Now, we will have strong transportation ties. In particular, we believe the Mexican shopper in Rio Bravo will want to take advantage of the new service, to visit Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes, or our new 180,000 square feet Walmart Superstore in Donna.”

Rio Bravo Economic Development Secretary Maria Elena Cavazos agreed.

“We always want to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Mexico and this is going to help. I am sure the people in the Valley will want to experience the unique stores we have in Rio Bravo, and the medical assistance we offer. And, our prices are very reasonable,” Cavazos told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“I know the people of our two communities have been asking for this service for some time. I am happy to say, now we can oblige. We love you all. Please come visit us.”

Tom Logan, executive director of Valley Metro, said the new service will be a Godsend for those who cannot drive or those who prefer not to.

“We want to continue to foster the brotherhood of the Valley. We are a binational community. This will enable those who do not have transportation or the willingness to drive on the U.S. side or the Mexican side. We will be able to connect them. We will be the bridge that connects these two communities. This new service solidifies the brotherhood that exists in the Valley,” Logan said.

Asked if more routes could be added later, Logan said: “This is what the people want. We are giving them what they want. From this we can evolve into more, but this is the perfect start.”

Francisco Galvan, who serves as director of the Tamaulipas Bi-National Commission, said providing a new bus service between Rio Bravo and Donna was what Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca had in mind when he talked about closer ties between Tamaulipas and Texas during his election campaign.

“The bilateral relations that we have between Tamaulipas and Texas has been neglected for quite a bit of time. We want to enhance the relations between the two states. We want to show what we have to offer in Tamaulipas. People living on the border, in particular, can easily take advantage of the services and the attractions Tamaulipas has to offer, at very reasonable prices,” Galvan said.

“It is not just our culture and family ties that can enhance our relations, but also tourism, medical care. It is very important to get that bridge open again. Communication, transportation, these are very important, especially for those of us on the border.”

Ron Whitlock, executive director of The Shepard Group, said he was honored to have brought all the stakeholders together.

“The new international bus service will enhance trade and travel between the United States and Mexico at a time when job creation is being encouraged in both nations, and at a time when improved relations are being sought in both Washington D.C. & Mexico City D.F.,” Whitlock said.

“I will be delivering boxes of grapefruit to Governor Abbott, Lt Governor Patrick, and House Speaker Straus in Austin next week. We will definitely tell them about this new bus service. We hope everyone at the Texas Capitol sees the potential benefits that this has to offer.”

Professor Emeritus Tony Knopp

Rio Bravo Mayor Diego Guajardo Anzaldua and Francisco Galvan, of the Bi-National Commission of Tamaulipas.

Tony Knopp, history professor emeritus at UT-Rio Grande Valley, said what Whitlock did in uniting the PRI and the PAN is no mean feat.

UTRGV Professor Emeritus Tony Knopp

“I am certainly glad that Ron Whitlock took the initiative in trying to promote this connection. We have a struggled here in the Rio Grande Valley in trying to retain our connection with Mexico, which has been so important to us. A bus connection would certainly be a big asset,” Knopp told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“What Ron has done is very important and a challenge in trying to link up the new PANista Governor of Tamaulipas, Garcia Cabeza de Vaca, and the mayor of Rio Bravo, who is a PRIista. Sometimes those political factors are a challenge but it looks like he has managed to bring it off.”

The mayor of Rio Bravo is Diego Guajardo Anzaldua, a member of the PRI party. For this bus service project, Guajardo has been working with Galvan, a PAN party member.

“I would hope they would work together on a project that is obviously in the interests of both sides. It is in their interests, as well as ours, to have this happen, regardless of what their political backgrounds are,” Knopp said.

Knopp added that, coincidentally, the Brownsville Convention & Visitors Bureau has re-established its link to its counterpart in Matamoros. “The two groups are trying to restore the connection between our border cities and the Mexican border cities,” Knopp said.

For more information about the Donna-Rio Bravo international bus service call Valley Metro at 956-969-5761.