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Hidalgo-County-SealA construction contract for the first portion of State Highway 365 is scheduled to be awarded in September, according to Dennis Burleson, of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority.

Reporting on the short-term strategic plan for the project, Burleson told the commissioners court the first portion of the international trade corridor, which will stretch from Pharr to Madero when complete, will be centered at the Pharr international bridge.

According to the information provided, the construction of segment three, a 1.84 mile length of Texas 365 (non toll) road project will be let in September and construction should be completed by June 2016 at a cost of $25.3 million. This includes federal funds of $1.5 million, state funds of $5.6 million, local funds of $18.2 million.

The next portion of construction will include sections one and two (13.31 miles of toll road), which extends from Pharr to Madero, and will be let in 2015 with construction completed in 2018 at a cost of $232.1 million. This amount includes environmental clearance and purchase of land. Funding includes $118.9 million in local funds (cash and toll revenue bond proceeds), Texas 365 advance funding agreements bond proceeds of $113.2 million.

The third project of the international trade corridor toll road is set to be let in 2015 and also completed in2018 and will include 13.06 miles of toll road at a cost of $196.9 million. There is a funding shortfall of $103 million for this project. There area local funds of 70.7 million from cash and toll revenues bond proceeds. If $126.2 million in advance funding agreements bond proceeds are received.

Phase two of Texas 365 is scheduled to let in 2015 and completed in 2018. This includes 2.65 miles of roadway if funding is available. There is a funding shortfall of $36.3 million for engineering, right-of-way and construction costs. These dates can be met if an additional $44.8 million in funding from TxDOT is received. This requires $5.39 million a year for 10 years.

If completed, there will be 30.9 miles of new roadway at a cost of $498.8 million. Burleson said when more of the projects were considered to be “shovel ready” funding from the state of Texas could increase.

In other action, the commissioners court approved an order establishing rules for roadside vendors in unincorporated areas of Hidalgo County. These rules are effective immediately. They apply to vendors, defined as any person who sells food, merchandise, live animals, or who erects a structure for the sale of food, merchandise or live animals   in rural parts of the county.

Regulation of activities will be limited to highways and roads where the speed limit is 40 miles per hour of faster.

A vendor may not be located in a distance that is equal to one-half the width of the right-of-way adjacent to the highway or road.

Vendors must comply with all conditions placed by the commissioners court for regulation of food establishments in unincorporated areas adopted on March 5.

A report on the renovation of the Hidalgo County administration building found additional new problems when a trench where the sanitary sewer was dug up and beams were found below the trench supporting the floating floor. Since the sewer is supposed to be laid at certain coordinates (levels) to make it run effectively, determinations have to be made as to whether removal of the beams will affect the integrity of the building. They were currently waiting for structural engineers to give the go ahead to be able to penetrate the beams and install the sanitary sewer.

The finished hardware and doorframes had been changed to use “Knock Down Frames” eliminating a six-week delay for the original product at a possible cost overrun of $98,000. With the previous savings for hardware items, the court was told approximately $117,278 in construction costs had been saved.

In other action the court heard a report from Barbara Storz on the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Commissioners were told 500,000 beneficial insects had been released from Miguel Allemande to Matamoros to help combat the spread of citrus greening. The disease was first discovered in San Juan. It is carried by the Asian citrus psyllid.

Other areas where the extension service works is the Rio Grande Beef Development Program, with agriculture and natural resources, a pesticide safety program in Hidalgo and Cameron counties.

A water education program, which included a seminar of water rights and public policy, was conducted as water is expected to be in low supply this coming crop season. Risk management programs for Hidalgo and Starr counties have helped farmers and ranchers deal with losses due to drought and weather related problems.

There have also been chronic disease prevention and management training to help residents of Hidalgo County and a Response- Better Living for Texans program designed to help residents as an estimated one in six households may experience food insecurity in Texas. Protecting Our Environment classes helped residents learn about water conservation to homes teaching ways to repair leaks and correct other problems that may cause water loss within homes.

There were 23 4-H Clubs with 572 members in 23 clubs who earned $200,000 in livestock show premiums.

To make these programs possible Storz said there were many residents of Hidalgo County who volunteer over $1 million of man-hours to make these programs a success.

Under action items, the court approved an Operation Stone Garden Grant of $3,321,164 through the Texas Department of Public Safety to pay for over time. The sheriff’s office would receive $1.6 million.

The county was authorized to accept a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area allocation of $685,705 from the executive office of the President – Office of National Drug Control Policy.

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