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Window on State Government

Transportation Task Force

Brownsville, April 13, 2000

Texas State Comptroller's Office Hears Transportation Concerns in the Rio Grande Valley


More funding directed to the Rio Grande Valley is the primary concern of community leaders according to testimony heard in Brownsville at the Texas Department of Transportation Performance Review, which is also a part of Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander's e-Texas initiative.

"Funding, funding, funding were the three points I heard come up today," said e-Texas Transportation Commissioner Massey Villarreal. "This is the gateway to international trade for North America, and we should funnel more transportation dollars to this area."

The 76th Legislature charged the Comptroller's office with reviewing TxDOT to find ways to improve Texas' transportation system. This is the third of four public hearings Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander is holding throughout the state.

The hearing is in conjunction with Comptroller Rylander's e-Texas initiative, a citizen commission charged with developing recommendations to help Texas state government meet the challenges of the Internet Age.

Major Issues

Major issues raised by panelists include:

  • Securing funds for Interstate 69,
  • Finding alternative funding methods such as GARVEE bonds, and
  • Increasing TxDOT staff.

Panelist Commentary

"We need to get construction of I-69 started," said Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa. "We believe payoff for Texas and the United States will be very large."

Hinojosa noted two obstacles to implementing the construction of I-69 in the Valley region. First, the Valley needs better local organization to present plans to TxDOT. Second, more federal and state transportation dollars are needed.

"The Valley is the biggest metro area in the U.S. with no access to a major interstate highway," Hinojosa said. "We have a relationship with TxDOT that has been very fruitful to Cameron County and the state of Texas, but we need more money."

For more funds to be directed to the Valley, the region's leaders are pushing for the passage of GARVEE bonds—which are highway construction bonds backed by future federal highway revenues—and for more of the fuel tax to go to transportation projects.

"We need alternative funding methods to meet our transportation needs," said Alan Johnson, executive vice-president for Texas State Bank. "NAFTA has increased the international traffic in the Valley. Infrastructure is not just a transportation issue, it's a safety and economic development issue as well."

Mike Allen, President and CEO of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, noted that the Valley is no longer a rural area, the population equals that of the Dallas metroplex in 1963. He said there is twice as much traffic crossing the Valley points of entry bridges from Mexico than the bridge in Laredo and attention to the roads needs to be emphasized.

Frank Feild, president and CEO of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, agreed that the Valley needs additional transportation funds. Additionally, he advocates hiring more staff in the Valley TxDOT office.

Hinojosa, Johnson, Allen and Feild all agree that the relationship the Valley region has with TxDOT is excellent. However, the need for more transportation funding is vital.

e-Texas is an initiative of Carole Keeton Rylander, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
Post Office Box 13528, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas

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