HARLINGEN, Texas – Rio Grande Valley leaders are quietly confident that the region’s state legislators can draw down the money this session to build a 2nd Causeway between the mainland and South Padre Island.
A new bridge to SPI is one of the top priorities of Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization and Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority. And it is the No. 1 legislative goal of the City of Harlingen. The estimated cost is $500 million.
The issue was discussed at a town hall meeting hosted by state Rep. Janie Lopez last weekend. The meeting was held at the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce.
Asked what she is hearing about funding for the 2nd Causeway at the state Capitol, Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda said: “Well, we’re hearing that it looks good this time around. There’s more support and our delegation, the entire South Texas delegation, is in full support of the project. They’re prioritizing it.”
Sepulveda pointed out that state Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg has been reappointed chairman of the House Committee on Transportation. She said that is a big boost.
“So, we’re really hoping that this time we’re able to be successful. The 2nd Causeway is definitely needed. I think if you go now to the island, you can see the congestion, the hours, sometimes, that it takes to get from one part of the Valley to the other. And so, to promote tourism and to ensure the safety of the people on the island, the 2nd Causeway is absolutely crucial and necessary,” Sepulveda said.
“I think that if there’s ever a time for it to pass, it’s this session, so we’re just praying and hoping. We have all put our support behind it and so has the MPO, which is important. We are coming together as one voice and requesting what is just really overdue.”
Sepulveda said she meets regularly with other mayors from around the Valley and the feedback she gets is always positive.
“We meet regularly and everybody is on the same page. We know that the 2nd Causeway helps every city within the Rio Grande Valley and it definitely helps Harlingen. We know that we have to prioritize the projects that we want and need.”
Mayor Sepulveda was interviewed exclusively by the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service immediately following Rep. Lopez’s remarks. Rep. Lopez, R-Harlingen, was aided by a powerpoint presentation. One of the slides had 17 funding requests from across Cameron County. The requests totaled $1.2 billion. The biggest item was the $500 million for a 2nd Causeway.
Interviewed after her remarks, Rep. Lopez said: “Can we get funding for a new causeway? It is very difficult for us to get funding. But, we are going to fight the cause and try to get this causeway funded. It has been on the Valley’s agenda for 20 years. It is time for us to get the funding we need.”
Lopez pointed out that Cameron County RMA is currently doing an environmental study.
“That’s always required for funding purposes. You have to have an environmental study. They (the RMA) originally had planned for two lanes on each side, which would be four lanes in total. But, they brought it down to one lane on each side because it was too expensive. They wanted to cut down on the costs. But that required them to do a new environmental study.”
Like Mayor Sepulveda, Lopez said it was good to have Rep. Canales as chair of the House transportation committee. She also said it was to the Valley’s benefit to have state Sen. Juan Hinojosa on the Senate finance committee and state Rep. Armando Martinez of the House appropriations committee. These two committees craft the state budget, she pointed out.
“That’s gonna be good for us,” she said. “Chairman Canales is doing a marvelous job. He’s got a lot of funding for our area already. And I know that he’s working hard to help the Valley. I’ll be working with him on transportation bills. We will request funding for the causeway and a couple of other bills that are transportation-related.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Harlingen Mayor Norma Sepulveda, state Rep. Janie Lopez, and Javier De Leon, president and CEO of Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce.
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