In exchange for a major financial commitment, Mission may take a controlling stake in the Madero bridge project.
The Madero bridge would connect Mission with the west side of Reynosa — and become the thirteenth border crossing in the Rio Grande Valley.
“And, keep in mind, Reynosa is growing on that side,” said Mission Mayor Armando “Doc” O’caña.
Mission plans to partner with McAllen and Hidalgo on the project. Negotiations over key details, including the percentage of the bridge each city will own and the number of seats each city will control on the bridge board, remain ongoing.
The Hidalgo City Council, however, approved a new version of the Madero bridge agreement last month.
Under the new agreement, McAllen and Hidalgo would cede control of the Madero bridge to Mission. In exchange, Mission would pay for construction and other costs.
It’s unclear whether or not McAllen will accept the new agreement.
“We didn’t say no,” said McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, recalling conversations during a bridge board meeting. “But we posed some questions.”
The U.S. State Department awarded Mission a presidential permit in 1978, which authorized the city to build a railroad bridge and crossing point for cars at Madero.
Mission, though, never built the bridge. Concerned the State Department might revoke the permit, former Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas started aggressively pushing the project.
McAllen and Hidalgo, which own the Hidalgo-Reynosa bridge together, partnered with Mission on the Anzalduas bridge.
When they inked the Anzalduas bridge agreement, the cities agreed not to build competing bridges. That “non-competition” clause required Mission to work with McAllen and Hidalgo on the Madero bridge project.
To kick-start the project, Mission City Manager Martin Garza sent a letter to McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez in March 2016, attempting to assuage concerns about the cost.
“In order to commence the project, several studies are required to be considered, and the City of Mission understands the costs associated with these studies,” Garza wrote. “As we previously discussed, the city of Mission is committed to the Madero Bridge Project, and in furtherance of such commitment, agrees to reimburse the Anzalduas Bridge Board for the actual cost of said studies, should the Board reconsider commencement of the project.”
They struck a deal.
Mission would own 23 percent of the bridge, McAllen would own 44 percent and Hidalgo would own 33 percent, according to a copy of the agreement approved by the Hidalgo City Council on March 14, 2016.
The agreement also assigned seats on the five-member bridge board.
Mission would control two seats, McAllen would control two seats and Hidalgo would control one seat.
The Hidalgo City Council approved a new agreement on Sept. 20, which hands Mission a controlling stake.
Under the new agreement, Mission would own 37 percent of the bridge, McAllen would own 33 percent and Hidalgo would own 30 percent.
The new agreement also hands Mission a majority on the Madero bridge board.
Mission would control three seats, McAllen would control one seat and Hidalgo would control one seat.
In exchange for a bigger percentage of the bridge and control of the board, Mission would accept a major financial commitment.
The new agreement requires Mission to acquire all property for the project, secure financing and manage construction.
“The Cities of McAllen and Hidalgo shall not be liable for any costs or expenditures related to the construction of the Madero Bridge until the completion of the bridge,” according to the new agreement. “Upon completion of the Madero Bridge, McAllen and Hidalgo shall begin repayment of costs expended by Mission, in proportion to its allocation, but such repayment shall come only from the revenues of the operation of the Madero bridge.”
Major questions about the new agreement remain, including how Mission would initially cover the construction costs.
“The big issue on that is, quite frankly, the way it was worded Mission would bear 100 percent of the cost of the bridge,” Darling said.
Mission, McAllen and Hidalgo funded the Anzalduas bridge with money from the Hidalgo-Reynosa bridge. Building another bridge just a few miles away may not be feasible for the foreseeable future.
Rather than rush to build the Madero bridge, Mission, McAllen and Hidalgo could ask the State Department to extend the permit.
“We’re all 100 percent in favor of the Madero bridge,” Darling said, adding that McAllen supports Mission and wants the project to succeed.
The Mission City Council may review the new agreement on Oct. 22.