Senator Lucio's Letterhead

STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez, Communications Director
Phone: 512-463-0385

SENATOR LUCIO ADDRESSES TEXAS TRANSPORTATION COMMISSIONERS

URGES FUNDING FOR SOUTH TEXAS/RIO GRANDE VALLEY PROJECTS

BACKGROUND: In November 2007, Texas voters approved Proposition 12, which authorized the issuance of up to $5 billion in general obligation bonds for highway improvement. In mid-2009, the Texas Legislature authorized the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to go to contract on approximately $2 billion of those voter-approved bonds for non-tolled highway projects.

PROJECT SELECTION: TxDOT districts and Metropolitan Planning Organizations were asked to help develop project selection criteria and a list of potential projects eligible for Proposition 12 funding. They identified more than $8.9 billion in possible projects.

PROJECT CATEGORIES: To narrow the list to the approximately $2 billion of Proposition 12 funding available, TxDOT staff divided the projects into three categories:

AUSTIN, TX — Today Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. addressed the Texas Transportation Commissioners about the oversight of funding highway projects for the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. Below is the text from his statement:

"With competing interests throughout the state, allocation of Proposition 12 funds is undoubtedly a difficult task that requires careful consideration and prioritization. It is my understanding that during the selection process eligible projects were categorized by mobility projects, rehabilitation projects and corridor projects which are of statewide significance.

In reviewing the proposed staff recommended list of projects to be funded, I'm concerned that the continued growth of South Texas and Rio Grande Valley has been overlooked. Of the recommended projects for the Pharr District, there are no recommendations for fund allocation towards corridor projects.

The Rio Grande Valley serves as an important corridor for the State's international commerce. By next year the population of the entire region will be approximately 3.5 million people and this number is expected to double by 2040. Proper investment in the infrastructure of our emergent community is necessary to ensure continuity and growth of economic development for our State.

Traffic counts in the Rio Grande Valley continue to rise; by 2028 the State expects to see a 63% increase in traffic in Cameron and Hidalgo Counties. I ask that you consider revising the fund allocation to include funding for corridor projects in the Pharr District. By upgrading existing highways it will be possible to create an efficient system from Texarkana to Houston and on to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. This will also improve highway access to the State's gulf coast seaports.

Governor Perry knows the importance of the development of South Texas corridors. That is why in 2005 he instructed the commission to develop proposals to build an interstate-quality highway to connect the Rio Grande Valley to I-37.

In 2003, I authored Senate Bill 409 to expand the make up of the Texas Transportation Commission from three members to five to reflect the ethnic and geographic diversity of the State. It disappoints me that South Texas does not have a member on this board to reflect our interests, and to ensure that funding is fair and equitable.

I understand the cost of freeway congestion is important, but you must also consider that the importance of the cost associated by ignoring a region that is growing. Not giving South Texas the adequate resources to grow is bad for the State. I urge you to carefully review the selection of Proposition 12 projects, and ask that you consider funding vital corridor projects in the Rio Grande Valley."

Note: Deputy Chief of Staff Louie Sanchez handles this issue for Sen. Lucio and can be reached at 956-548-0227.

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