As one of the few congressional 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 as we expand commercial traffic crossing at the Donna-Rio Bravo Bridge, provide upgrades to the Veterans and Gateway Bridges, increase Los Indios Bridge’s capacity, and ensure Pharr Bridge has the proper infrastructure for the agricultural industry to move tons of produce each day.
When I was elected to Congress, a project to complete the first new international rail bridge on the U.S.-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.
The seaports in Brownsville, Harlingen, Port Isabel, Port 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 can ensure our ports receive crucial maintenance of their channels and the assistance necessary to expand capabilities to support economic opportunities. Our work with the U.S. Economic Development Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation has led to millions in funding to upgrade capacity on the docks for port businesses to grow. I have helped to secure nearly $95 million for the four seaports located in Texas 34. I have also worked to bring attention to the economic value of our ports by pushing for the designation of Marine–69 (M-69) to tell businesses that we have a marine highway to 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 me. 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. With 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, it will be easier for traffic – especially commercial trucks – to move back and forth from the Port of Brownsville, advancing economic opportunities.
While I-69 is critical for the entire region, I also focus on assisting our local communities with funding for other vital road projects. For example, I assisted the City of South Padre Island in securing $3.5 million in federal funds for the construction of sidewalks with safety and landscaping barriers on both sides of Padre Boulevard. In addition to this, I also worked with federal officials to secure $8.4 million for improving roads up to and inside of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
As our region grows, our airports also need the best facilities possible to transport people and cargo. We are working on exciting projects with the FAA and the City of Brownsville to include a new terminal building and upgraded runways for the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport. For the new terminal alone, I helped secure $24 million in federal funds from the FAA. I also continue to support Valley International Airport in Harlingen, which has received millions in federal funding for its runways.
Expanding transit service is essential to helping people commute across Texas 34 and to enable veterans to reach vital services. Since I was elected, I have supported funding requests for Metro Connect that provides service from South Padre Island across the Rio Grande Valley to McAllen, and in 2019, I helped secure over $3 million to fund 36 new buses in rural communities throughout my district from the Rio Grande Valley to the Coastal Bend. 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.