Mission budgets $5 million for Madero bridge project

This article originally appeared in the Friday June 14, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

Mission may spend $5 million to study the Madero bridge project, hiring consultants to conduct an environmental assessment and feasibility study that focuses on rail.

The city budgeted $5 million for the environmental assessment and railroad-focused feasibility study, Mayor Armando “Doc” O’caña said Monday.

City of Mission logo“We have allocated — and I say ‘we’ — the city of Mission has allocated $5 million for building the bridge,” O’caña said. “I told them to be careful with that because they’re going to think that the environmental is going to cost $5 million. We don’t know that until we request for qualifications.”

O’caña said the budget will cover an environmental assessment, the railroad bridge feasibility study and similar work on the Mexican side of the Madero crossing.

The Mission City Council tabled the request for qualifications on Monday after City Attorney Gus Martinez asked members to meet privately about a legal matter.

O’caña attempted to jump-start the Madero bridge project after he became mayor.

The U.S. State Department authorized Mission to build an “international rail and vehicular bridge” at Madero in 1978.

Mission sat on the permit for decades. The Anzalduas bridge, which Mission built with assistance from McAllen and Hidalgo, took priority.

A feasibility study prepared by Houston-based S&B Infrastructure determined a standard vehicular bridge would cost $144 million. The study included a financial analysis prepared by Boston-based consulting company Steer Davies Gleave, which warned toll revenue probably wouldn’t cover the initial investment.

The feasibility study, though, didn’t include the railroad component. O’caña said he wants to conduct a new feasibility study that focuses on rail.

Convincing the City Council to pay for the preliminary work could be a major challenge for O’caña.

After cajoling from Mission, both McAllen and Hidalgo approved an agreement that would hand a majority stake in the Madero bridge to Mission. In exchange, however, Mission would pay for all construction costs. McAllen and Hidalgo would pay Mission back with their portion of the toll revenue.

The City Council rejected the agreement, concerned that Mission couldn’t afford the cost.

Mission also plans to pay for an environmental assessment and feasibility study for the Mexican side of the Madero crossing. As part of the process, the city needs to find a partner in Tamaulipas to champion the project.

During a recent meeting with Mexican officials, a woman representing Reynosa mentioned the need for a railroad bridge.

“Reynosa brought up the need: That the railroad is passing through their town, going to Brownsville, to Monterrey. And they want to cross it over into Mission,” O’caña said. “She actually was asking for partners, not knowing that Mission was sitting right next to her. To me, the lights went ‘Ding!” She was probably an angel from God, sent to me at the right time.”

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