Sunday, July 30, 2006

"I think what we can do as a board is we can lay down the infrastructure.”

Building security: RMA complete, board plans funding for development

July 30,2006

Victoria Hirschberg
The Monitor
Copyrigt 2006

McALLEN — Regional Mobility Authority board member Ramiro E. Salazar told the six other members to look out the window at the Second Street overpass.

The complete seven-member board met for the first time this week at the Inter National Bank overlooking that interchange in South McAllen.

“When we were building that overpass, there was nothing on the south side and I used to have people walk in my office and say, ‘Why are you building that overpass? We’re farmers, we don’t need roads,’” said Salazar, a retired Texas Department of Transportation engineer.

That was about 30 years ago. Now there are hospitals, retail outlets, residences and traffic in South McAllen, Salazar said, which is why the Regional Mobility Authority must think ahead.
Charged with this future planning are two bankers, a businessman, a financial adviser, a retired engineer and a retired U.S. Customs agent. The board members, who serve one- or two-year terms, will devise funding to develop Hidalgo County’s infrastructure and transportation system.

The Texas Transportation Commission approved the RMA in November 2005. Since then, the four county commissioners and county judge and McAllen city commissioners each appointed one member and Gov. Rick Perry appointed the chairman to this inaugural board.

“One of the first things we have to do is educate other community leaders and citizens about the shortfall of state highway funds that are available,” RMA Chairman Dennis Burleson said. “This is all over the state and it’s easy to think we don’t get our share — there is some truth to that — but the shortfall is statewide. We’re going to have to make some choices.”

While the RMA can’t levy taxes, it could appeal to Commissioners Court to add money into its budget for transportation purposes. The RMA board plans to borrow money for start-up and projects such as the Hidalgo County loop and connector between the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge and Expressway 83. The RMA will also work closely with TxDOT and the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Besides building new roads, RMA members plan to discuss rail options for alleviating traffic and toll roads in the county.

“If we go back 10, 20 years and look at San Antonio and Houston, how much would (toll roads) have cost today if they did not (build toll roads),” said Bobby Villarreal, County Judge Ramon Garcia’s appointee. “I think we need to think 20, 30 years down the road.”

“I don’t know if we could have an immediate impact on alleviating traffic down 10th street,” said board member Ricardo Perez. “But I think what we can do as a board is we can lay down the infrastructure.”

Victoria Hirschberg covers Hidalgo County government and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4466. For this and more on local stories, visit

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