MCALLEN, Texas – State Sen. Juan Hinojosa says he is helping with efforts to find the funding for a second causeway for South Padre Island.
Hinojosa is a member of the Senate Committee on Transportation. He met recently with Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., and Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) Executive Director Pete Sepulveda, Jr., to discuss the project.
“A second causeway is extremely important for South Padre Island and Cameron County and the whole Valley,” Hinojosa said. “Most of the people that visit South Padre Island are from Hidalgo County. So, we are working on expanding Monte Cristo Road in Hidalgo County all the way to the second causeway.”
Cameron County RMA has made a second causeway one of its top projects. Asked how his discussions with Judge Treviño and Chairman Sepulveda went, Hinojosa said:
“I spoke with Chairman Pete Sepulveda and County Judge Trevino last week about what we need to do to make the second causeway a reality. I believe the environmental studies have been completed. There were some issues in terms of whether the RMA and Cameron County could use some of their fees that they generate to be able to part of the causeway, which I think they can. We may have to clarify that this coming (legislative) session.”
A key aspect of the second causeway project is that it includes a toll road. Asked about this, Hinojosa said:
“The public-private partnership would include a toll road to help finance the causeway. So, we are working on that. I think it is very doable. There is a commitment by the Cameron County and South Padre Island leadership and the South Texas leadership to help in whatever way we can to make it a reality and get it done.”
Hinojosa acknowledged the second causeway project has taken a long time. However, he said that was inevitable given the need to pass strict environmental regulations.
“Everything is a little bit slower when you are dealing with water and the beaches and the seashore. These are environmental issues that you do not have when you are working on projects inland. Estuaries, fishing… you have to be a lot of more careful and cautious.”
Hinojosa said with environmental regulations satisfied, it was time to develop a financial plan for the project.
“Financing is key. We have to put together a financial package that will fit, so we can move forward with it.”
Asked about the resistance of state leaders to allow toll projects to proceed, Hinojosa said:
“I think there has been a slow change in the number of members, both in the House and the Senate, who want more flexibility. Toll roads are not for every project. It is needed in some instances where a local community supports it, where they want it.”
The veteran lawmaker noted that Hidalgo County has had a road project approved by state leaders that will be tolled. The project is designed to take trucks going to and from the county’s international bridges off busy streets.
“That toll project was grandfathered in,” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa said local communities need flexibility when it comes to incorporating a toll road in a highway project.
“You talk to community leaders and they will tell you they need more flexibility. We cannot have a blind moratorium where do not allow toll roads whatsoever. It is not the way to run or conduct government. You need flexibility.”
Asked if he discussed a timeline for the second causeway with Treviño and Sepulveda, Hinojosa said: “We did not discuss a timeline. They were more focused on funding. Once you have the funding in place then the timeline will take care of itself. I do see Judge Treviño and Chairman Sepulveda very much committed to getting this project done.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows the Queen Isabela Causeway, which links Port Isabel to South Padre Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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