AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday committed $60 million for border infrastructure and transportation projects.
The five-member TTC governs the Texas Department of Transportation.
The border funding came about as a result of a rider authored and placed in the state budget by state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. Joined by a dozen or so Texas-Mexico border leaders, Hinojosa spoke at the monthly TTC meeting.
“I want to encourage the commission to continue moving forward in supporting investment in our infrastructure along the border. Our bridges are clogged up. Our trade with Mexico is over $200 billion a year. That benefits our state, our economy,” Hinojosa told TTC commissioners.
“People from Mexico come and shop on our side of the border. You can see the long lines any time you are along the border. They come here and spend money, which increases not only our sales tax to our local communities but our sales tax to the State of Texas. It is very important we continue to invest in our infrastructure along the bridges.”
TTC Chairman Tryon D. Lewis responded: “Thank you very much Senator. It is an honor for us to have you here and your whole delegation.”
Later, Hinojosa issued this statement: “I thank the Commission for taking action on Rider 11(b) and allocating $60 million for border infrastructure funding. Continuing to invest in border infrastructure to fund improvements designated to facilitate the movement of people and goods is an important investment for the future of all Texans since transportation is the lifeblood of our economy.”
Hinojosa pointed out that Texas’ international border bridges facilitate a huge amount of trade with Mexico, to the tune of $200 billion a year. Mexico is by some distance Texas’ largest trading partner.
“This is a significant benefit to our state, and the people from Mexico who come into our communities to shop, eat, and spend money increases the sales tax to our local communities as well as to our state. I encourage TxDOT to continue supporting investment in border infrastructure and future projects as it is the future of Texas,” Hinojosa added.
Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. During the last legislative session, he ensured Rider 11b was placed in the Transportation bill pattern of the state budget for 2016-17. Now referred to as the Border Infrastructure Rider, Rider 11b directs TxDOT to “fund improvements designed to facilitate traffic related to motor vehicles, cargo and rail, and improve the efficiency of border inspection and security processes at land ports of entry located within 50 miles of the Texas-Mexico border.”
The rider states that in making funding allocations, TxDOT should “consider factors related to the movement of people and goods through the land border ports of entry within the boundary of the state, including but not limited to the number of incoming commercial trucks and railcars, the number of incoming commercial trucks and railcars, the number of incoming personal motor vehicles and buses, the weight of incoming cargo by commercial trucks, and the number of land border ports of entry.”
Among those appearing at the TTC meeting with Hinojosa was Cameron County Judge Pete Sepulveda. “Rio Grande Valley leaders are fighting in Austin together for our share of funding and resources for the border region,” Sepulveda told the Rio Grande Guardian.
In addition to Sepulveda, other border leaders at the TTC hearing included McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, Hidalgo County Executive Director Bobby Villarreal, McAllen Superintendent of Bridges Rigo Villarreal, El Paso Bridge Director Mathew McElroy, Border Trade Alliance board member Jesse Hereford, Border Trade Alliance, IBC Bank Executive Vice President Gerry Schwebel, IBC Bank McAllen President David Guerra, Del Rio Assistant City Manager Ryan D. Rapelye, and Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority Chairman Randy Sweeten.