Filemon Vela

Representing the 34 District of Texas

Transportation and Infrastructure

Expanding business and recreational infrastructure remains one of my top priorities.  Along with business and public interest groups that help advance our region, I will continue to support upgrading our ports, improving our roadways and transit systems, and promoting ecotourism with new trails in coordination with federal, state, and local government officials.
As one of the only congressional districts in the United States with land, air and sea ports, my responsibilities involve working with numerous federal agencies to upgrade facilities and ensure people and goods can move safely and efficiently.

For our eight land ports of entry, coordinating with local and federal officials has been key in establishing successful commercial traffic crossing at the Donna-Rio Bravo Bridge. In addition, providing upgrades to the Veterans and Gateway Bridges, expanding Los Indios Bridge’s capacity, and ensuring Pharr Bridge has the proper infrastructure, the agricultural industry can   move tons of produce each day. 

When I was elected to Congress, a project to complete the first new international rail bridge on the US-Mexico border in over 100 years was stalled. In working with the local community and federal officials, we were able to complete the West Rail project (B&M Rail Bridge replacement), and the bridge opened for service in 2015.

Our local seaports of Brownsville, Harlingen, Isabel, Mansfield, and the nearby Port of Corpus Christi bring billions of dollars in economic benefits to South Texas and produce tens of thousands of jobs.  In partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, we are able to ensure our ports receive the necessary maintenance of their channels and the assistance needed in expanding capabilities for future economic opportunities. Besides support for the channels themselves, we have worked to bring attention to the important economic value of all of our ports by pushing for the designation of Marine – 69 (M-69) to remind businesses that we have a marine highway that runs parallel to I-69 which helps them move their goods more efficiently.
 
Connecting our seaports and land ports to the rest of the nation is another critical area of focus for our office.  One of the most vital projects is completing the highway upgrades necessary to allow full designation of I-69, especially from the Rio Grande Valley through the Coastal Bend.  While we still have more segments to complete, we continue to focus on securing necessary funding and resources. Another piece of the interstate puzzle is I-169.  Once complete, traffic – especially commercial trucks – will have an easier time moving back and forth from the Port of Brownsville, advancing economic opportunities in the region.  While I-69 is critical for the entire region, we also focus on assisting our local communities with other vital road projects.  Not only are funds needed, but we also work to help ensure that federal involvement in all projects is as efficient as possible.

As our region grows, our airports need the best facilities possible to transport people and cargo. We are working on exciting projects with the FAA and the City of Brownville to include a new terminal building and upgraded runways for the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

Expanding transit service is essential to helping people commute across the Rio Grande Valley and to enable veterans to reach vital services. I also believe it is imperative to support projects that provide residents of our district with transportation and recreational alternatives that promote healthy lifestyles. For example, I have helped secure grants to connect communities in Cameron County to advance our local economy, especially ecotourism. These grants offered funding for more buses, sidewalks, and bike lanes. Using the Lower Rio Grande Active Plan as a guide and exemplar, we will continue to work on developing more hiking and biking trails in the district.

In working with the Army Corps of Engineers and local officials, we are restoring our resacas to provide for increased water storage and storm capacity and for stabilization of the banks. These actions also provide for habitat restoration and recreational use, while advancing active lifestyles and ecotourism.