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RIO GRANDE CITY, RGV – Major transportation projects are being considered to boost mobility and economic development in Starr County, County Judge Eloy Vera has announced.

Vera gave his State of the County 2017 address at the Julabe Reception Hall in Rio Grande City last week. In his remarks, he stressed the importance of improving security along ‘Ruta 54’, which connects Monterrey, Mexico, with Roma, Texas.

“The mayors from Roma, Rio Grande, and myself were honored to meet the governors of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon,” Vera explained. “We are trying to promote ‘La Ruta 54’ (Route 54), which is the road that connects Monterrey to Roma, because we feel that that is our lifeline.”

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian after the State of the County address, Vera said he and mayors from communities between Monterrey and Roma recently met in Cerralvo, a city in Nuevo Leon, to discuss the road. He said both Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca and Nuevo Leon Gov. Jaime Rodriguez Calderon, who were at the Cerralvo meeting, have pledged to make the road safe.

“We want to promote that road. For some reason, for many years, it [Road 54] was seen as unsafe, and now both governors from Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas are committed to the safety of the road so that hopefully we start getting more people coming down that road,” Vera said.

Vera said the reason for focusing on Route 54 is to bring increased economic vitality to Starr County. A lot of fresh produce from the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, is carried by 18-wheelers around Monterrey and onto the Rio Grande Valley. But, it does not cross at Roma, which, as the crow flies, is the nearest Texas city to Monterrey.

“Our goal is to get some of the businesses to do business on this side of the river, here in Starr County,” Vera said.

“We have been missing out on that so we want that to happen, that’s the only way we are going to grow as far as economic growth.”

New Bridge for Roma

During his State of the County address, Vera said he delivered a letter to Gov. Cabeza de Vaca suggesting options for the repair of the Roma suspension bridge, which, according to the county judge, cannot handle a lot more truck traffic.

“I was fortunate to give a letter to Gov. Cabeza de Vaca, from Tamaulipas, stating the options on behalf of our suspension bridge, but we really don’t have many options,” he said.

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Vera said serious consideration is being given to a commercial bridge that would connect Mier to Roma.

“That is the reason we are looking at the other bridge, the Mier-Roma bridge, which would be commercial-industrial, or the Falcon port or the Rio Grande port,” Vera said. “We need to get them (commercial vehicles) into Starr County one way or another. Unfortunately, the bridge in Roma, it can carry some but not a lot, because of the location of the bridge. The Mier-Roma bridge, if we are ever fortunate to get one, that would be built just for that.”

The various ideas for the Roma suspension bridge, Vera said, include leaving it as it is, which runs the risk of collapse, which would cost Starr County more money for environmental and debris clean up. Another option Vera proposed is to fix the bridge, which he said would be ‘too expensive’, and a third option suggests bridge restoration for pedestrian crossings in the hope of attracting tourism to the community and thus increasing economic growth.

“That’s a reason why we are looking at the Mier-Roma bridge, which will be a commercial-industrial bridge, or the Falcon or Rio Grande ports, we need to get them [commercial products] into Starr County one way or another,” Vera told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Vera said that engineers have done studies in the past for bridge repairs and costs could range from $8 to $10 million dollars, but he said costs are not the problem.

“The problem is not so much the economics of building the bridge, it’s getting all the agencies, Homeland Security, Border Patrol, Agricultural, all these different agencies that have to buy into it, that’s the difficult part.”

East-West Lateral Routes

During the Address, Judge Vera also announced long-term transportation ideas for Starr County. One idea is an east-west lateral route from Roma to Edinburg.

“I would like to see our relief route make it to another section that will hopefully come from FM 2220 to intersection FM 107, which is the route that goes into La Joya and then tracts towards Edinburg,” Vera stated in his Address.

“If that road would continue to la Victoria and hit our relief route eventually, then we would have a direct route all the way from Roma to Edinburg, that’s a long-range road.”

Another long-term project Vera would like to see happen is another east-west lateral which would run from Falcon Dam to Port Mansfield.

Vera told the Rio Grande Guardian that the reason these new east-west routes are needed is due to U.S. Bus. 83 being the only road connecting the Valley to Laredo.

“The importance of that is because the only east-west route that we have is U.S. 83,” he said
“If something happens to one of those bridges, we are stuck, we cannot go to the Valley nor the Valley cannot get to Laredo, so it’s important that we get east-west routes.”

The relief route in Rio Grande City, currently being planned, includes three phases: the FM 755 to FM 3167 route, known as hospital road, which will exit out of Rio Grande City, the second route will range from FM 3167 to FM 649 (Garceño), and the third route will cover FM 649 to Loma Blanca road connecting to Roma.

Vera stated the FM 755 to FM 3167 (hospital road) route is scheduled for groundbreaking in the fall of 2019.

Vera added: “I think we need infrastructure to attract industry and transportation certainly is very important.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows mayors from cities along Ruta 54 in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas at a meeting with the governors of those two states, Jaime Rodriguez Calderon and Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca, held in Cerralvo, Mexico, last month. Starr County Judge Eloy Vera is pictured on the left.