Committee approves environmental study for Madero bridge project

This article originally appeared in the Friday May 10, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

Mission may pay consultants “a couple million” to conduct an environmental study for the Madero bridge project.

The Mission Rail Bridge Action Committee approved the environmental study Monday, authorizing city administrators to draft a request for qualifications. The City Council will review and discuss the final document.

City of Mission logo“And, of course, the engineering firm that we engage for these services will have to do all the coordination with the Mexican side to ensure that they’re onboard with the proposed project and the corridor that’s going to be adopted for this project,” said city Purchasing Director Eduardo Belmarez, who briefed the committee Monday afternoon.

While many details about the Madero bridge remain in flux, Mission is pressing forward with the project anyway, concerned the U.S. State Department may revoke the bridge permit unless the city demonstrates progress.

The project would cost about $144 million, according to a study prepared by Houston-based S&B Infrastructure, which reviewed plans for a standard bridge that would support cars and commercial trucks.

Mayor Armando “Doc” O’caña, though, wants to build a railroad bridge, which is allowed by the federal permit but wasn’t part of the S&B Infrastructure study.

“My opinion — and this is just my opinion — I think that the rail has a lot more feasibility to it for right now than the vehicular traffic,” said McAllen Economic Development Corp. CEO Keith Patridge, who serves on the committee.

Kansas City Southern may be willing to partner with Mission on a railroad bridge, Patridge said. The company already owns railroad tracks that run northeast from Monterrey to the outskirts of Camargo before following the border east to Matamoros.

A railroad bridge in Mission would provide a shortcut from Monterrey to Houston. Along with advantages for commercial freight, the route could provide a high-speed rail connection for passengers.

How much the environmental study would cost remains unclear.

City Manager Randy Perez said Mission budgeted money for the environmental study but didn’t want to make the amount public, concerned the number would influence what contractors would charge.

Perez, though, said he expected the environmental study to cost roughly “a couple million.”

The city borrowed nearly $11.7 million in October by issuing certificates of obligation, a type of debt that doesn’t require voter approval. Perez said that money would pay for the environmental study.

Mission may spend the nearly $11.7 million: “(i) for the purchase of commercial sanitation vehicles and commercial garbage bins, (ii) for construction, repair, rehabilitation and renovation of municipal buildings, (iii) to engage engineers for the purpose of planning and designing public utilities and improvements in the southwestern part of the City, and (iv) payment of cost of issuance of the Certificates,” according to documents filed with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.

Information prepared for previous environmental analyses and the S&B Infrastructure study may reduce the cost, Belmarez said, adding that Mission would review all available data before proceeding.

“We’re going to make sure we do our due diligence to try to maximize the value and minimize the risk for the city,” Belmarez said.

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