Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, M.D. addresses the members of the Texas Transportation Commission in Austin on March 28, 2017.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Transportation Commission today approved $218.2 million for Hidalgo County transportation projects, including $150 million for the Pharr Interchange Expansion project, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa has announced.

The monies will come from the Texas Department of Transportation under the 2017 Unified Transportation Program, which authorizes projects for construction, development and planning activities and includes projects involving highways, aviation, public transportation, and state and coastal waterways.

State Sen. Juan Hinojosa

“It’s great news that the Pharr Interchange project was approved by TxDOT to receive $150 million in funding. As one of the fastest growing areas of the state, infrastructure is key to continue our economic growth. The US 83/US 281 is critical to the flow of traffic of the economies of Pharr, Edinburg, McAllen, Mission, and Weslaco,” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said.

“Since last year I have made the Pharr Interchange project a top legislative priority. This funding is critical to improve our transportation system and infrastructure needs to address the congestion and bottlenecks that presently exists.”

Hinojosa pointed out he had helped plan many meetings with local elected officials, the Governor’s office, TxDOT staff and leadership, including TTC Chairman Tryon Lewis and TTC Executive Director James Bass. Lewis and Bass visited the Rio Grande Valley with Hinojosa last year to learn about the region’s transportation needs.

“Thank you to the leadership of Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia, the Valley legislative delegation and the Hidalgo County MPO for working together to achieve such great success for our region. The strong local support and investment from our local communities played a key role in successfully obtaining these funds,” Hinojosa added.

Mayor Hernandez was invited by Hinojosa to attend today’s TTC meeting in order to testify in support of updates to the 2017 Unified Transportation Program (UTP). At the meeting, TTC commissioners unanimously approved the UTP, including $150 million in funding for the I-69/I-2 Interchange expansion project in Pharr – known locally as the Pharr Interchange Expansion.

“I am honored to have once again been invited by Senator Hinojosa to lend my support to this project and share with the Commission how critical this expansion is to help goods and products smoothly travel from our international port of entry to their final destinations into the hands of consumers across the state and throughout the nation,” Hernandez said.

“The Pharr Interchange is a vital lifeline not only for commerce and trade, but also for commuter travel and as an evacuation route for our area; it has long overgrown its capacity due to the tremendous increase in population and vehicular traffic. We are grateful that our state leaders in Austin have made this expansion a priority.”

Hinojosa first identified the Pharr Interchange Expansion project as one of his top legislative agenda items last August, at a luncheon hosted by the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the Embassy Suites in McAllen.

Hinojosa said it would take approximately $76 million for expansion and $140 million for complete reconstruction. He said he’d rather have it redone so that the Valley has the capacity for continued growth.

“The Pharr interchange that connects Pharr, Edinburg, McAllen and the eastern part of Hidalgo County has become a bottleneck and people are complaining because of the delays and the long lines,” Hinojosa told the Rio Grande Guardian, following the RGVHCC luncheon.

“We’re working with TxDOT and trying to make sure we have the funding necessary to… expand the Pharr interchange. That is an indication of the tremendous growth that is taking place here in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Hinojosa, Hernandez and other Valley leaders then met with TTC Chairman Lewis and other TxDOT officials. Hernandez explained that truck traffic is increasing at the Pharr International and surrounding port of entry crossings. He said improving traffic flows at the Pharr Interchange will help move northbound trucks out of the Valley faster.

“I want to express my appreciation to Governor Abbott, Chairman Tryon Lewis and the members of the Texas Transportation Commission, TxDOT Executive Director James Bass and the TxDOT staff, including the Pharr District, and the entire Rio Grande Valley Legislative Delegation for their unwavering support of this crucial expansion project that will help our city of Pharr, the entire South Texas Region, and the State of Texas as a whole, continue to flourish,” Hernandez added.

After Hernandez delivered his remarks, Chairman Lewis thanked the mayor for his work on behalf of transportation in the Valley, noting the astonishing growth in the region and its importance as a driving economic engine for Texas. “It’s big, and it’s going to grow, and to get there, it’s important to think regionally and to solve regional problems,” Lewis. “You’ve been a great leader in that, and I appreciate that.”

Senate District 20

Sen. Hinojosa said that in total, the TTC approved $510 million in highway funding for Senate District 20, with projects planned for Brooks, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, and Nueces counties. All the funds came from the UTP.

Hinojosa said the following funding was approved for each county in Senate District 20:

Brooks County: $58.2 million

Hidalgo County: $218.2 million

Jim Wells County: $70.0 million

Nueces County: $163.5 million

“It’s exciting news for Senate District 20 that several transportation projects have been approved by the Texas Transportation Commission to receive a total of $510 million in funding. As one of the fastest growing areas of the state, infrastructure is key to continue the economic growth of South Texas,” Hinojosa said.

“Transportation funding for our district projects has been a top legislative priority. This funding is critical to improve our transportation system and infrastructure needs that will greatly benefit South Texas.”

Hinojosa thanked local elected officials and other leaders for “working together to achieve such great success for our region.” He said the “strong local support of these projects from South Texas communities “played a key role in successfully obtaining these funds.”