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Final stage of funding for $260 million, 365 Tollway Project, which will handle heavy commercial international truck traffic in Hidalgo County when constructed, approved by Texas Transportation Commission - Tollway Project - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, whose Senate District 20 includes Corpus Christi, and Barbara Canales, the great-niece of American GI Forum founder Dr. Hector P. García, are shown here on Tuesday, November 14, 2017, during a legislative appreciation luncheon hosted by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Canales is now County Judge for Nueces County, of which Corpus Christi is the county seat.

Photograph Courtesy TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI

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Final stage of funding for $260 million, 365 Tollway Project, which will handle heavy commercial international truck traffic in Hidalgo County when constructed, approved by Texas Transportation Commission

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

Federal funding of $27 million to cover certain costs of constructing the 365 Tollway Project, which will connect the Anzalduas and Pharr international bridges in order to protect public safety and generate economic growth in deep South Texas, was recently approved by the Texas Transportation Commission, according to Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.

The 365 Tollway Project, which when constructed will be 12.2 miles in length, also will handle heavy commercial international truck traffic that uses the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

The five-member Texas Transportation Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Texas Senate, governs the Texas Department of Transportation.

https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/administration/commission.html

“This is a project that will significantly improve our communities by diverting nearly one million international trucks per year from our local roads through neighborhoods and school zones where they cause significant safety issues and are a strain on an already congested system,” said Hinojosa, who serves as a member of the Senate Committee on Transportation.

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation – which along with the Senate Committee on Transportation – has great influence in overseeing the Texas Transportation Commission, the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as wielding other major legislative powers.

“The 365 Tollway Project is a unique project, spanning east to west along the Texas-Mexico border and just miles away from three international border ports-of entry (Anzalduas, Pharr and McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa international bridges),” Canales said. “The project is an important component of the long-term infrastructure plan in the Rio Grande Valley. It is a challenge to overstate just how important the 365 Tollway is to the Rio Grande Valley.”

Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, is the only other Valley legislator who serves on the Senate or House transportation committees.

The 365 Tollway Project, which is estimated to cost almost $260 million, for years has been a priority for the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, and many business and community leaders in the region, Hinojosa added.

“I appreciate the Texas Transportation Commission’s unanimous approval of the $27 million in grant funding so that the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority can move forward with the construction of the 365 Tollway,” said Hinojosa. “For the past several years I have been working with (Hidalgo County) RMA Chairman David Deanda, facilitating meetings with Texas Department of Transportation staff, and making sure this project remained in the Unified Transportation Program.”

The 365 Tollway project will be overseen by the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation.

The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority now has until Tuesday, May 1, 2022 to execute a construction contract for the 365 Tollway Project.

The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority is an independent governmental agency created by the Texas Transportation Commission and the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court on November 17, 2005, to accelerate needed transportation projects in Hidalgo County.

https://www.hcrma.net/board.html

A regional mobility authority (RMA) is a political subdivision formed by one or more counties to finance, acquire, design, construct, operate, maintain, expand or extend transportation projects. These projects may be tolled or non-tolled.

https://www.txdot.gov/government/partnerships/rma.html

The Texas Department of Transportation, a state agency, is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the state’s immense state highway system, and also is responsible for overseeing aviation, rail and public transportation systems in the state.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/texas-department-of-transportation

The Unified Transportation Program is the Texas Department of Transportation’s 10-year programming document to authorize and guide transportation project development and construction on Texas’ intermodal transportation network. It is updated, and adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission annually.

https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/division/transportation-planning/utp.html

In its public meeting in Austin, held on Wednesday, June 3o, 2021, the Texas Transportation Commission
found :

• The 365 Tollway Project is consistent with the approved Texas Transportation Plan and the Metropolitan Transportation Plan of the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization;

• The 365 Tollway Project will improve the efficiency of the state’s transportation systems;

• The 365 Tollway Project has the potential to expand the availability of funding for transportation projects or reduce direct state costs.

• Providing financial assistance will prudently provide for the protection of public funds; and

• The 365 Tollway Project will provide for all reasonable and feasible measures to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse environmental impacts.

“Fully funding the 365 Tollway Project has been a priority for me for many years, and I am proud that our countless meetings and correspondence with the governor’s office, Texas Transportation Commission, and the Texas Department of Transportation has led to this funding approval,” he said. “Our region has more than one million commercial motor vehicles driving on our roads every year, and an enormous percentage are trucks funneled from our ports of entry, delivering goods to the U.S.”

The 365 Tollway Project, when completed, “will better streamline international traffic, incentivize businesses to invest more in our region, and provide solutions to some of our current safety issues,” Canales predicted.

The senator agreed with Canales’ assessment of the upcoming and significant increase of international traffic along the Texas-Mexico border.

“In a recent report from the Texas Department of Transportation, it is estimated that the number of northbound commercial vehicles and rail crossings in the Texas-Mexico border is forecast to grow from a combined 5.6 million in 2019 to 14.9 million in 2050,” said Hinojosa. “For this reason, it is important that we invest in our infrastructure so that Texans can reap the financial benefits and the number of jobs trade with Mexico generates for the Texas economy. This is an important investment for the future of the Valley.”

Hinojosa shared credit with South Texas legislators for the progress on the 365 Tollway Project.

“I also want to thank Terry Canales, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and all the members of our legislative delegation for their letters of support, phones calls to the Texas Transportation Commission, and tireless commitment to this project,” said Hinojosa.

Other information about the funding request for the 365 Tollway Project includes the following summary of the scheduled action for the Wednesday, June 30, 2021 meeting of the Texas Transportation Commission:

• Consider approval of a request from the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority for financial assistance in the form of a grant in the amount of $27,000,000 to pay for costs of constructing the 365 Tollway Project.

• This financial assistance will be made with 100% federal funds and will not include funding from sources commonly known as Proposition 1 and Proposition 7.

• This minute order will provide Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA) approval of $27,000,000 in additional financial assistance in the form of a grant. The funds being requested have been programmed in the current 2021 Unified Transportation Program (UTP) as federal funds identified as Category 10 Coordinated Border Infrastructure (CBI) funds and Category 11 Rider 11(b) Border Infrastructure funds.

• The 365 Tollway Project is “grandfathered” in accordance with Section 372.002, Transportation Code, because the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority commenced the environmental review process for the project on or before January 1, 2014 and meets the criteria to receive financial assistance from the department without repayment.

• As allowed by Transportation Code, §372.002, added by Senate Bill 312, Acts of the 85th Legislature, in 2017, the Texas Department of Transportation may contribute funds as participation in the cost of a project for which repayment is not required if a toll project entity began the environmental review process for the project on or before January 1, 2014. The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority began the environmental review process for the 365 Tollway Project before January 1, 2014.

As planned, the 365 Toll Project included the construction of three segments, comprised of both toll and non-toll improvements. Segments 1 and 2 included the construction of toll road improvements from FM 396 (Anzalduas Highway) eastward to FM 3072, approximately 0.9 miles west of FM 2557, and then southward to US 281 (Military Highway).

Segment 3, which constitutes US 281 and the Border Safety Inspection Facility (BSIF) Connector, includes the construction of non-toll highway improvements to US 281 (Military Highway) from 0.45 miles east of Spur 600 (Cage Blvd.) to FM 2557 (Stewart Rd.), and construction of non-toll highway improvements called the BSIF Connector from Spur 29 (S. Veterans Drive) to US 281 (Military Highway) below the San Juan Road overpass.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE HISTORY OF THE 365 TOLLWAY PROJECT

According to the Texas Transportation Commission:

On April 29, 2010, the Texas Transportation Commission, by Minute Order 112250, designated the limits of State Highway 365 along a new location in Hidalgo County, with the initial limits of the project from FM 1016, 1.7 miles south of US 83, eastward to FM 3072, 0.9 miles west of FM 2557, a distance of approximately 12.73 miles.

The Texas Department of Transportation and the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, pursuant (authorized by) to former Section 228.0111 of the Transportation Code, agreed on market valuation business terms for the Trade Corridor Connector project, which included Segments 1 and 2 of the SH 365 project, and the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority, in Board Resolution No. 2010-38, adopted on July 27, 2010, exercised its option to develop the project.

On February 24, 2011, the Texas Department of Transportation adopted Minute Order 112605, directing that if financial assistance is provided to a public entity under Transportation Code, §222.103 from a statewide funding source:

(1) That assistance shall be repaid, or

(2) The Texas Department of Transportation shall require the entity to which the assistance is provided to agree to share project revenue with the department, in such amounts and for such period of time as is approved by the commission. These requirements do not apply to financial assistance provided from funds allocated to metropolitan planning organizations or department districts.

On July 26, 2012, the Texas Transportation Commission, by Minute Order 113199, amended Minute Order 112250 by extending the limits of the State Highway 365 designation from FM 1016, 1.7 miles south of US 83, eastward to FM 3072, approximately 0.9 miles west of FM 2557, and then southward to US 281 (Military Highway), a distance of approximately 14.31 miles.

On May 28, 2015, and June 25, 2015, the Texas Transportation Commission passed Minute Order 112605 and Minute Order 114288, approving a request for financial assistance from the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority in an amount up to $127,935,862 for construction costs associated with Segments 1 and 2 of the SH 365 project.

In Board Resolution No. 2016-73, adopted on May 17, 2016, the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority exercised its option to develop the project pursuant to Texas Transportation Code §373.052, which superseded the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority’s exercise of its option to develop the project in Resolution 2010-38.

On June 30, 2016, in Minute Order 114625, the Texas Transportation Commission rescinded the state highway system designation of SH 365 from FM 1016, 1.7 miles south of US 83, eastward to FM 3072, approximately 0.9 miles west of FM 2557, and then southward to US 281 (Military Highway), a distance of approximately 14.31 miles.

On October 18, 2016, the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority and the Texas Department of Transportation entered into a financial assistance agreement for $127,935,862 to be used on a reimbursement basis for costs associated with construction for the 365 Tollway Project.

In Board Resolution No. 2020-21, adopted August 25, 2020, the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority reasserted its primacy and exercised its option to develop the 365 Tollway Project, a toll project within the limits of Segments 1 and 2 of the SH 365 project.

The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority has requested financial assistance in the form of a grant of $27,000,000 to be used only for the costs of constructing the 365 Tollway Project. The funds for this financial assistance were most recently listed in the addition to the 2021 Unified Transportation Program approved by the commission in December 2020 as Category 10 Coordinated Border Infrastructure funds and Category 11 Rider 11B Border Infrastructure, in the total amount of $27,000,000 for the 365 Tollway Project.

Transportation Code, §370.301 authorizes the department to provide for or contribute to the payment of costs of the design, financing, construction, operation, or maintenance of a turnpike project by a regional mobility authority (RMA) on terms agreed to by the Texas Department of Transportation and the RMA.

Transportation Code, §222.103 authorizes the Texas Department of Transportation to participate, by spending money from any available source, in the acquisition, construction, maintenance, or operation of a toll facility of a public or private entity on terms and conditions established by the commission.

Pursuant to Transportation Code, §222.103, the commission adopted Title 43, Texas Administrative Code, §§27.50-27.58 (toll equity rules) to prescribe conditions for the commission’s financing of a toll facility of a public or private entity.

In accordance with §27.53 of the toll equity rules, the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority has submitted a request for $27,000,000 in additional financial assistance, in the form of a grant, to cover certain costs of constructing the 365 Tollway Project. The Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority proposes to expend its own funds to pay actual eligible expenses and seek reimbursement from the department, which will disburse the financial assistance within 30 days of a request from the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority.

The information and data required by §27.53 is either contained in the request for financing, is already in the department’s possession, or may be waived.

IT IS THEREFORE DETERMINED AND ORDERED by the commission that the request for financial assistance in the form of a grant submitted by the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority meets the applicable requirements of 43 TAC §§27.53 and 27.54(a) and, in accordance with those provisions, as an exception to the requirements of Minute Order 112605, the commission grants preliminary and final approval of financial assistance in the form of a grant in an amount up to $27,000,000, to be used only for the costs of constructing the 365 Tollway Project, from FM 396 (Anzalduas Highway) and extending east and south to US 281 (Military Highway) in Hidalgo County.

IT IS FURTHER DETERMINED AND ORDERED that, in accordance with 43 TAC §§27.54 and 27.55, the executive director has negotiated the amount, type, and timing of disbursements of the financial assistance in the form of a grant, and is authorized to negotiate and execute a financial assistance agreement which includes the following terms: (1) the financial assistance will be disbursed on a reimbursement basis and may only be used for construction of the 365 Tollway Project; and (2) if the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority fails to issue toll revenue bonds and execute a construction contract on or before May 1, 2022, the financial assistance may not be disbursed and the financial assistance agreement shall be terminated, unless this deadline is extended by the executive director of the department.

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For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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