The Madero/Reynosa International Bridge project is entering a new stage following a special meeting held this week.
On Wed., the mayor, city manager and city council met to discuss the project, which has been up in the air pending an expiring Presidential Permit and the security of funding. During the special meeting, an interlocal agreement with the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (HCRMA) was approved pending the approval of a city consultant on the project.
The consultant on the project, however, is yet to be determined.
The special meeting also included the authorization to solicit proposals from consultants to represent the city of Mission in advocating for an extension of the Presidential Permit, which is set to expire in 2021. Currently Rigo Villarreal is a consultant on this project, but his contract will be ending soon.
At first, Mayor Armando O’caña proposed that Villarreal remain consultant and be put on the agenda for the Feb. 10 city council meeting. He said they wanted to review the pending contract and make a better decision as a council.
Council voted to solicit proposals, and said that Villarreal could also be an applicant in order to ensure a fair process.
Eric Davila, the Chief Development Engineer for the HCRMA, was at the special meeting to discuss the interlocal agreement which was tabled at the previous meeting. He said the HCRMA and the city have mutual interests that would eventually require them to enter into an agreement regarding the area anyway.
“We’re an interested stakeholder that has a West Loop Project which would be part of the alignment for any future rail to traverse through in HIdalgo County,” Davlia said. “I think we have some common interests.”
City Attorney Gus Martinez said the contract was legally sound. The agreement includes that Mission’s duties are the advanced project development work (funding), work authorizations, feasibility analysis, the extension of the permit, the facilitation of studies, right-of-way-records and the environmental process as well as a United States sponsor overseeing Mexican permitting efforts.
The HCRMA would act as the “performance manager,” supervising the services for the advance project development work, contract management and an audit of the services to be provided to Mission.
Mayor Pro-Tem Norie Gonzalez Garza wanted to ensure that no funds were spent until the permit extension was secured. Davila said they would not be spending anything until an extension was confirmed.
City Manager Randy Perez noted that the protocol for applying for an extension on this permit has changed. Perez has been in contact with representatives from Senator Ted Cruz’s office as well as Rigo Villarreal.
“There were some changes in the administration process,” Perez said. “They are researching who, it’s not the state department per say. They are providing that information to me, and as soon as I have that I will share it with the mayor and council.”
After some back and forth discussion on whether it would be more efficient and cost-effective to seek an extension to the presidential permit now or later, the council decided to approve the interlocal agreement “as to form subject to the execution upon review by the consultant to be hired.”
Council member Jessica Ortega-Ochoa hopes that the project is seen through because of all the work city staff and Perez have put into it so far, but they have to make a decision soon.
“We have to either say yay or nay and move on to something,” Ortega-Ochoa said. “[There are] great projects coming to the city of Mission, and if this isn’t something that we’re all going to move forward, we need to move on to something else.”
This article originally appeared in the Friday Jan. 24, 2020 issue of the Progress Times.