Edinburg Airport Ready to Welcome International Passengers

Edinburg, TEXAS– The City of Edinburg, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officially opened a new Federal Inspection User Fee Facility at the South Texas International Airport.

To mark the completion of the facility, the City and EEDC hosted a ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremony with more than 100 people in attendance including Mayor Richard H. Garcia, members of the City Council, EEDC, and CBP.

Mayor Garcia welcomed CBP to Edinburg and thanked them for helping develop infrastructure that will make it easier for people to travel to Edinburg. “This is going to help us take that next step to become a destination city,” “As of today, international travelers and merchandise will be able to clear customs without having to make a pit-stop in another city, but fly directly into Edinburg.”

The Customs Facility located at the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg will allow international travelers to clear Customs in Edinburg. The airport is located at the intersection of I-69 Central and FM 490. It is a general aviation use facility that welcomes landings and departures of non-commercial aircraft. The airport is also home to The Texas Department of Public Safety Aviation Division for this region and is designated as the staging area for Texas Task Force One during emergencies.

This new facility is 4,500 square feet and will be staffed by two-CBP Inspectors for general aviation traffic. The $1.3 million project was a joint partnership between the City, EEDC and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection.

The South Texas International Airport at Edinburg is located at 1300 East FM 490.

More information about the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg available here: www.cityofedinburg.com/locateairport.php


Allegiant Flights From McAllen to Orlando, L.A., Set to Resume This Spring

Photo Courtesy of Gabe Hernandez of The McAllen Monitor.

Photo Courtesy of Gabe Hernandez of The McAllen Monitor.

Allegiant’s seasonal nonstop flights between McAllen and Orlando and Los Angeles are set to return this spring.

Flights to Orlando will run from May 27 to August 17 four times per week — on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to Sanford International Airport.

Flights to Los Angeles are set to resume June 4 through August 16, twice weekly on Sundays and Thursdays to Los Angeles International Airport.

Allegiant’s average one-way fare last quarter was just $89.74. Learn more about flight times and fares on Allegiant’s website, www.allegiant.com.

Allegiant recently announced it will add service from Brownsville to Las Vegas, in addition to the…

Read more at The McAllen Monitor.


Railroads of the Lower Rio Grande Valley

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas would not be what it is today without the coming and development of the railroads. This series will discuss the following railroads that have in the past and are currently serving the Valley: Brazos Santiago and Rio Grande Railroad; Rio Grande Railroad Company; Port Isabel and Rio Grande Railroad; Rio Grande and Pecos Railway Company; St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railroad; Brownsville and Gulf Railroad; San Antonio and Rio Grande Railroad; Frisco System; Rio Grande City Railway; Missouri Pacific System; San Benito and Rio Grande Valley Railway; Southern Pacific System; Border Pacific Railroad; Rio Valley Switching Company; Brownsville and Rio Grande Railroad; and Union Pacific Corporation.

The story of Valley railroads goes back nearly 150 year. The facts concerning the start of the first railroad might have been lost in the fogs of time, but thanks to the efforts of deceased Valley historian A. A. Champion we have a record of the Brazos Santiago and Rio Grande Railroad. He tells us that the idea for a railroad came to pass in 1847. General Zachary Taylor was utilizing river steamboats to move military materiel upstream from his Matamoros headquarters in preparation for invading northern Mexico during the Mexican American War. Passing equipment across the problematic mouth of the Rio Grande was a continuing headache. The quartermaster general then conceived moving materiel from…

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Potential Visit by Presidents Obama, Nieto Bring Excitement to the Rio Grande Valley

Cameron County officials are preparing for a potential visit by Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto in April, when the first new international rail bridge between the U.S. and Mexico for 105 years is officially opened.

Pete Sepulveda, executive director of Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority, has worked on the West Rail Bypass International Rail bridge project from the beginning. He said he is excited about the prospect of the two presidents speaking at the ribbon-cutting.

“There is a lot of talk about bringing the two presidents to Cameron County. There is a lot of excitement. I think that is very realistic, very doable,” Sepulveda told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“We are looking at mid-April for the official opening. I think it is a great opportunity to bring the two presidents here. Think of the history. It was on Dec. 12, 1910, when they opened the B&M rail bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros. This is the first one since. There is so much happening in our region. It would great to have the presidents come down.”

Obama has not visited the Rio Grande Valley since becoming president. He came twice while campaigning for president in 2008, once to Brownsville and once to Edinburg. Peña Nieto has visited Reynosa during his presidency. Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón visited the new rail bridge in Matamoros in November, 2012, while it was under construction.

Sepulveda discussed the new international bridge during a…

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Space X Entrepreneur Tips Texas as Location for Hyper-Loop Test Track

Elon Musk is a busy man: Tesla recently unveiled the all-wheel-drive Model S with auto pilot, SpaceX just crash-landed its Falcon 9 rocket, and the entrepreneur this week announced more plans for a trip to Mars.

So it’s not surprising that Musk’s plans for a $6 billion Hyperloop providing high-speed travel between U.S. cities has been put on the backburner.

Until Thursday, that is, when the businessmantweeted about a Hyperloop test track “for companies and student teams to test out their pods.” The course will likely be developed somewhere in Texas.

“Also thinking of having an annual student Hyperloop pod racer competition, like Formula SAE,” Musk wrote.

The Hyperloop made headlines in August, when Musk described a system whereby passengers would be transported at top speeds via tubes constructed above or below the ground.

Ideally, this Hyperloop could move 840 passengers per hour and connect cities fewer than 900 miles apart—San Francisco to Los Angeles, perhaps; or loops between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. It would probably cost about $1.35 million per passenger capsule, or $6 billion in total, Musk said last year.

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Major Transportation Projects Making Progress in Cameron County

Major transportation projects in Cameron County saw significant progress in 2014, namely the SH 550 connector linking the Port of Brownsville with I-69 East, as well as a project to build a second access across the Laguna Madre to South Padre Island.

Pete Sepulveda Jr., Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority executive director, said work on the final phase of the $44 million 550 connector project started in March 2013 and is expected to be complete this month in terms of establishing direct connectivity between the interstate and the port.

The most recent step was the installation, nearly complete, of a “center bent” over I-69 East between Rancho Viejo and the Brownsville Sports Park.

It was part of the third and final phase of a $44 million project to connect I-69 with the Port of Brownsville via direct toll road along the old FM 511 route.

“The next step after that is to work with TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) to design the portion that connects 550 with I-69 East to just east of the new overpass on Old Alice Road,” Sepulveda said. “That will be designated as Interstate 16-9. It’ll be about three miles long.”

In all, two more segments of the project have to be finished before the 550 connector can be designated as interstate along its entire length, he said. That construction will start the first quarter of this month.

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First New Railroad Bridge to Mexico in a Century Set to Begin Operations

Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Pete Sepulveda, Jr., is no stranger to opening new trade corridors between the U.S. and Mexico.

Working for the City of Pharr he played a key role in getting all the permitting in place for the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The bridge recently celebrated its 20th year of operation.

In the mid-to-late 1990s, working this time for the City of Eagle Pass, Sepulveda played a key role in getting all the permits in place for the Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras Camino Real International Bridge. And, Sepulveda was international bridge system director for Cameron County when Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates opened in 1999.

Next up for Sepulveda, who is also Cameron County Administrator, is opening the first new rail crossing between the United States and Mexico in over 100 years. The rail crossing will link Brownsville and Matamoros and, on the U.S. side is known as the West Rail Relocation Project.

“We are about 90 days from completing and placing in operation the first international rail bridge between the United States and Mexico in 107 years. That is the West Rail Relocation Project. It starts at the switchyard in Olmito, north of Brownsville, goes west and then south into Mexico. Construction on both sides is about 99 percent complete,” Sepulveda said, in a presentation he made at the Border to Border Transportation Conference in McAllen last month.

“We are in the process of relocating the VACIS (Vehicle and Cargo Imaging System) unit, which is the x-ray units, on both the Mexican side and the U.S. side, and hopefully in the first quarter of 2015 we will place that in operation and that will complete a project that began in 2001. It is an international project, very complex. For those of you who have worked on international bridge projects, you know the complexity.”

Sepulveda explained that financing an international rail bridge is more difficult than financing an international road bridge because with a road bridge a governmental body can charge a toll.

“This particular project was a lot more difficult. Normally, when we need to do an improvement on one of our international bridges we sell toll revenue bonds. We have a 60-year history of owning an international bridge so going to Wall Street and getting financing is a slam dunk. For an international rail bridge where you cannot charge a toll fee it makes it a little bit more difficult to finance,” Sepulveda said.

Improved Public Safety Could Make International Bridge More Productive

The Los Indios Free Trade Bridge south of San Benito has great potential as a crossing point for imported fresh produce – if security can be improved on the Mexican side.

To this end, Cameron County and the cities of Harlingen and San Benito, who jointly own the bridge, are working directly with an official within the state government of Tamaulipas to try to get improved public safety measures installed.

“There are two main segments that need improving,” said Salomon Torres, executive director of San Benito Economic Development Corporation. “There is a very short three-and-a-half mile segment from the bridge to the interstate on the Mexican side. And there is the interstate segment between Rio Bravo and Matamoros. All of that area is very rural and unprotected as far as public safety patrols are concerned.”

Torres believes Tamaulipas state officials will make public safety leading to Los Indios Free Trade Bridge a greater priority as international trade increases in South Texas. He bases his optimism on the participation of Raúl Sepúlveda, the Tamaulipas secretary of economic development and tourism, at a three-day gathering of Cameron County and Mazatlán officials in September. The state of Sinaloa is considered the bread basket of Mexico and a new superhighway linking Mazatlán to Matamoros is becoming a popular route for trucking firms that bring fresh produce from Sinaloa destined for the east coast of the United States.

Torres said it was clear from the visit of the Mazatlán officials and from a big fresh produce trade show held in Anaheim, California, held in October, that produce companies and distributors are interested in the crossing points Cameron County has to offer.

“The Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh summit in Anaheim was a real eye-opener for all of us who want to expand trade with Mexico and import more produce. It was massive,” Torres said.

“We were there specifically to educate producers from Mexico about the Cameron County crossings, specifically the Los Indios Free Trade Bridge. We learned from producers that they are well aware that crossing produce through the Valley is a good option. However, their perspective of the Valley is that Pharr is pretty much the only place where you can cross produce – because there are lots of warehouses and cold storage terminals in the Pharr-McAllen area. What we learned from attending the summit is that there is a lot of opportunity for other bridge crossing points to share in that activity. Why, because the one negative about the Pharr bridge that they (the fresh produce distributors) told us about directly was the congestion and the delay. With produce as a product, that is a real concern.”

Torres said he was “blown away” by the size of the Fresh summit. “It is huge. I was really impressed. The theme is produce, food, and the new technologies that are used in growing. It is really South American growers and North American growers, plus other parts of the world, coming together and really showing consumers and distributors what they offer.”

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U.S. and Mexico to End Restrictions on Trans-Border Airline Flights

t will soon be easier for U.S. and Mexican carriers to add new routes between the nations.

The United States and Mexico said they will end current restrictions that cap the number of passenger airlines that can fly on any one route between the nations. The agreement — announced on Friday — will become effective Jan. 1, 2016, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

“The new agreement … will benefit U.S. and Mexican passenger and cargo airlines, airports, travelers, and businesses by allowing significantly increased market access for passenger and cargo airlines to fly between any city in Mexico and any city in the United States,” the State Department said. “Cargo airlines, for the first time, will have expanded opportunities to provide service to new destinations that were not available under the current agreement.”


That current agreement places significant restrictions on the number of carriers permitted to fly U.S.-Mexico routes. Enacted in 2005, that agreement generally allows only two U.S. airlines and two Mexican airlines to fly on a single route between U.S. and Mexican airports. Some routes have different restriction details, but the agreement effectively caps the number of airlines that can begin service between U.S.-Mexico city pairs.

“The new agreement will remove the numerical limitations on the number of airlines that may provide passengers service in all U.S.-Mexico city pairs,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said in its own statement about the agreement.

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Valley Transportation Major Legislative Issue in 2015

State Rep. Armando Martinez, vice chair of the House Committee on Transportation, has announced some of the top transportation agenda items for the next legislative session.

They are: consideration of a 20 cent state gasoline and diesel tax, paying off debt service for previously issued highway bonds, dedicating sales tax on new and used vehicle purchases to transportation and paying off debt, providing local-option elections on local increases to motor fuels tax to fund local transportation projects, authorizing additional sales tax for transit, allowing counties to impose vehicle-related fees such as registration fees, within their jurisdiction, and dealing with road damage due to energy development.

St. Rep. Armando Martinez

St. Rep. Armando Martinez

Martinez, D-Weslaco, gave the keynote speech at last weeks’ Border to Border Transportation Conference hosted by the Hidalgo County Metropolitan Planning Organization. It was held at the McAllen Convention Center.

Martinez has made available his speech to the Rio Grande Guardian. We post it here in its entirety:

1. The Importance of Transportation to Texas

a. Purely based on size, transportation by highway is extremely important to Texas. Our state is one of the largest in the United States, in fact it’s the largest state in the contiguous 48. There are approximately 80,000 miles of state maintained highway in Texas. That is a about 200,000 lane miles of pavement that require maintenance.

b. But transportation is important not only because of the size of our state, it is also important because of how many people live and travel in our state. In 2013 the population of Texas was estimated to be just below 26.5 million people. Another 1,200 people join this population every day, either by birth or by moving to Texas. Our population is expected to double in the next 25 years. Texas is growing at one of the fastest rates in the country.

c. The trucking industry is the backbone of both our state’s and country’s economy. In 2012 alone, Texas export revenues totaled $265 billion dollars – the most in the country. According to the John Esparza, the President of the Texas Trucking Association, trucking accounts for 1 out of every 16 jobs in Texas.

d. In the United States, 1 of every 7 jobs is transportation related. Transportation- related goods and services accounted for over $1 trillion dollars of the US Gross Domestic Product in 2002. This was more than 10% of our GDP.

e. In 2010, the “Trade, Transportation, and Utilities” Industry accounted for 18.5% of Texas’ Gross Domestic Product, the biggest mark in the state.


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