SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, RGV – On the eve of an important meeting about the 2nd Access Project, Cameron County Judge Pete Sepulveda, Jr., says a second causeway to South Padre Island could be built by 2020 or 2021.

Asked what the best case scenario is, Sepulveda told the Rio Grande Guardian: “We could have the second causeway built by 2020-2021. It is not a long time when you look at the amount of work and the level of effort that needs to be put into it. But, we have been very aggressive and we are going to continue to be aggressive. Once we get the environmental clearance the other phases of the project we can pretty much accelerate. We are really focused right now on getting that environmental clearance.”

Pete Sepulveda, Jr.
Pete Sepulveda, Jr.

Asked how important a project a 2nd Causeway would be for the Rio Grande Valley, Sepulveda said: “This is huge for the Rio Grande Valley and the whole state of Texas because the Island, three miles long, half a mile wide, probably 18 percent of our tax base comes from there. If we can provide another access and give it the ability to double in size, it can go from a $2.5 billion valuation to a $5 billion valuation. The number of jobs that are going to be created, both direct and indirect, is just enormous. I have always said we have an unlimited growth potential here in the Rio Grande Valley. Just being able to bring a projects of this magnitude to realization is just awesome.”

The big meeting being held at the Hilton Garden Inn on South Padre Island today is aimed at developers that could be interested in helping the CCRMA and the Texas Department of Transportation build a 2nd Causeway. It is being called an “Industry Outreach Meeting” and starts at 9 a.m. At the end of the meeting, CCRMA staff will conduct tours of the project. The project consists of three components: the mainland roadway, the Laguna Madre crossing bridge and the island roadway.

Asked why the meeting is being called, Sepulveda said: “The whole purpose of the meeting is to reach out to industry, to see what type of interest there is out there. I think this is a good time right now, there are not a lot of projects our size. I think this is why it has attracted the attention it has.”

Asked how much interest there is among developers, Sepulveda said: “We are very excited about the level of interest we have seen so far. We will probably end up with about 200 participants at the meeting. We will go through our presentation and hopefully get some feedback from the industry. Then, after that, the real work will start because we will set up individual one-on-one meetings with those private developers that have the ability to bond a project of our size.”

In addition to talking about the 2nd Access Project, Sepulveda said other important transportation projects in the Rio Grande Valley will be discussed. “We are going to talk about the whole Rio Grande Valley, the different projects that are in the works, from McAllen, Mission, Edinburg all the way to Brownsville. It is a really good opportunity to showcase the entire Rio Grande Valley, projects such as UTRGV, which will be a big component of future economic development of the Rio Grande Valley. Also, LNG (liquefied natural gas) SpaceX, all of this will be in our presentation,” Sepulveda said.

The 2nd Causeway will link to CCRMA’s Outer Parkway project. This in turn will link to an improved connector to Edinburg and other parts of Hidalgo County. “The connectivity between Cameron County and Hidalgo County is extremely important to the future of the Rio Grande Valley,” Sepulveda said.

“We have about four projects on U.S. 77 in the Kingsville-Corpus Christi area to complete the entire route and sign it as I-69 East. That will be huge in bringing industry and tourists into the Rio Grande Valley. The 2nd Causeway is a game changer because we will have increased connectivity with Hidalgo County. This is extremely important because today we are effectively one big metropolitan area.”

Sepulveda said that in addition to improved mobility and safety, building a 2nd Causeway at the north end of South Padre Island and a connector road all the way across to Edinburg will help UT-Rio Grande Valley “Faculty and students will have the ability to get from one campus to another, a lot quicker, a lot safer, on less congested roads. That makes a lot of sense.”

Sepulveda said a 2nd Causeway could also, potentially, benefit SpaceX, which is building a rocket launch site at Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville. “The number of tourists they will attract for every launch, that traffic flow will have to be looked at. Hopefully with all the projects we are working on, that will be addressed.”

Sepulveda said completion of an environmental clearance document is anticipated in the fall of 2016.

Any developer interested in attending the Industry Outreach Meeting should contact the CCRMA at (956) 621-5571 or [email protected].

Editor’s Note: In the main image accompanying this story, Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority board members are pictured with TxDOT officials.