Filemon Vela

Representing the 34 District of Texas

Transportation and Infrastructure

Expanding business and recreational infrastructure remains one of my top priorities.  From efforts to upgrade our ports, to improve our roadway and transit systems, and to promote ecotourism with new trails, I coordinate with federal, state, and local government officials as well as business and public interest groups to advance our region. 

 

As one of the only districts in the United States with land, air and sea ports, I work 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 critical to ensure commercial traffic can cross at the Donna-Rio Bravo Bridge, to provide upgrades to the infrastructure of Veterans Bridge and Gateway Bridge, to expand Los Indios Bridge capacity, and to ensure Pharr Bridge has the infrastructure as well as the agriculture officials necessary to move the tons of produce that cross each day.  As to our rail port of entry, 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.  Working with the local community and federal officials, we were able to ensure the West Rail project, to replace the B&M Rail Bridge, moved forward and the bridge opened for service in 2015. 

 

Our local seaports, Port of Brownsville, Port of Harlingen, Port Isabel, Port Mansfield, and the nearby Port of Corpus Christi, together bring billions of dollars in economic benefits to South Texas and produce tens of thousands of jobs.  Working with the Army Corps of Engineers, we are able to ensure our ports receive critical maintenance of their channels as well as assistance 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 can help 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 to transport people and cargo.  Exciting projects we are working on with the FAA and the City of Brownville include a new terminal building and upgraded runways for the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

 

Expanding transit service is essential to help people commute across the Rio Grande Valley and to enable veterans to reach vital services. I also believe it is critical to support projects which provide the 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 are funding more buses, sidewalks, and bike lanes.  And using the Lower Rio Grande Active Plan as a guide, we will continue to work on developing more hike and bike trails.

 

Working with 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, but these actions also will provide for habitat restoration and recreational use, advancing active lifestyles and ecotourism.