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20101119_COUNTY_Hidalgo-Co.-RMA-board-installs-new-members_EPG_MUSTAlonzo-Cantu_Forrest-RunnelsWESLACO — Two new members were welcomed to the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority board last week in a workshop meeting to acquaint their members with new projects, including vital funding issues.

McAllen residents Alonzo Cantú and Forrest Runnels were given the oath of office by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, at a Nov. 10 meeting. Cantú, a real estate developer, was appointed by former Interim Hidalgo County Judge Rene A. Ramirez while Runnels was appointed by Precinct 4 Commissioner Oscar Garza Jr. and Commissioner-Elect Joseph Palacios.

Other board members include RMA Board Chair Dennis Burleson of Mission, a financial advisor, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry. Michael G. Cano of Pharr is an attorney with Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson in Edinburg. Ricardo Pérez is the Palmview branch president for Rio Bank, and member Joe Olivarez is a realtor from Weslaco.

“We want to get the new board up to speed and what the consultants are tasked to do,” RMA Executive Director Godfrey Garza, said of the meeting.

The board discussed their ongoing projects with State Highway 365, which is also known as the Trade Corridor Connector that runs from Conway to Dicker roads, a 14-mile project. They were also brought up to date on the International Bridge Trade Corridor that stretches about 15 miles.

For the IBTC project, the RMA is holding a public hearing at the Donna High School Lecture Hall on Nov. 30. At the hearing, residents will be allowed to look at the proposed project and tell board members what they think.

The proposed project is a six-lane toll road from U.S. Expressway 83 to Military Highway at San Juan Road and FM 493. The RMA will need to acquire approximately 618 acres of right-of-way for the project.

Officials said the project is necessary, as the existing street network doesn’t support projected freight and auto traffic from the Pharr/Reynosa and Donna bridges.

Within the project, there are a number of potential displacements, including 46 single-family residences, two commercial properties, a vacant commercial warehouse and aboveground tanks associated with a gas well outside the projected right-of-way. Additionally there are approximately 0.09 acres of wetlands and 5.38 acres of waters that lie within the proposed right-of-way, but RMA officials said the group was taking measures to minimize any impact to the waters.

Residents will be able to discuss and get information on the right-of-way procedures as well as the environmental impact of the project.

While outlining their projects at the workshop meeting, the financing options were also discussed.

Texas Department of Transportation District Engineer Mario Jorge said while Texas isn’t completely broke to fund projects, the state isn’t looking to fund big efforts like the IBTC. Instead, TxDOT is utilizing most of its funds on maintaining its roads. In order to fund IBTC, Jorge said the quickest way to get the project going would be if the RMA would fund the project itself; seeking federal funding would only delay the project.

At the board’s Nov. 23 meeting, they’ll continue discussing funding options and applying for loans.

“This is an important signal to give to our financial advisors,” Burleson said of directing financial advisors to begin applying for loans to fund RMA projects.

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