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HCMRA prepares for possible bond sale

PHARR — Board members of the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority are set to meet twice next week as they prepare documents to get a rating for a bond sale in December and a public hearing for the proposed International Bridge Trade Corridor.

HCRMA's financial consultants said they were working to complete paperwork to be sent to bond agencies, which includes background on the county and the project. Officials said they'd continue to monitor interest rates that are most viable for the initiative; if rates get too high, making the project too pricey for the RMA, officials indicated they'd wait until 2011. The group plans to borrow about $84 million for IBTC. Already, approximately $21 million has been spent on the project.

"We need to look at everything and individually feel confident we're making the right decision," said RMA Chairman Dennis Burleson.

As the RMA hopes to get a favorable rating, First Southwest financial consultant Troy Madres said the group would benefit from having a revenue source to pay their debt with the $10 vehicle registration fee charged to Hidalgo County motorists. On average, the county collects close to $5 million and First Southwest consultant Richard Ramirez said the county could expect a small one percent growth on that figure in the coming years.

At Monday's Commissioners' Court, officials said they viewed the vehicle registration fees as a down payment for right-of-way acquisitions to help move the project forward. The RMA needs to acquire approximately 618 acres of right-of-way for the endeavor.

Jorge Garza, the county's financial consultant with Hinojosa/Estrada, said there was no taxpayer liability except on this fee.

"They seem very responsive and supportive of the project," said RMA Executive Director Godfrey Garza of commissioners.

The RMA will meet again at Commissioners' Court to request they continue their support of the RMA with the vehicle registration fee.

In a breakdown of projected general costs, Ramirez told commissioners the IBTC project could cost about $183 million with about $85 million coming from vehicle registration fees and approximately $84 million coming from total revenue bonds. Ramirez said another $7 million could come from Texas Department of Transportation or local metropolitan planning organization contributions.

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, the RMA also formed a formal agreement with TxDOT on the IBTC's design.

"This officially establishes us as a partner with IBTC," said TxDOT engineer Mario Jorge.

Jorge said the partnership was necessary as IBTC would cross with several state highways.

On Nov. 29, the RMA will meet again for a final review of the documents to be sent to bond agencies before the project and organization is to be rated. On Nov. 30, the board members will meet with the public at Donna High School Lecture Hall at 1/4 Mile East Wood Avenue to discuss the six-lane toll road from U.S. Expressway 83 to Military Highway at San Juan Road and FM 493.

The open house and exhibit viewing with maps will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. with the presentation and hearing starting at 6:30 p.m.

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CoverageAreaThe Progress Times is the hometown newspaper for the local communities of Mission, Sharyland, Alton, Palmview, La Joya and surrounding areas in Western Hidalgo County. We have a staff of veteran reporters who work diligently every week to bring our readers the latest news as it affects their hometown area and people.

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