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Harlingen commissioners cast ‘yea’ vote for MPO merger

April 23, 2019 GMT

HARLINGEN — After four years of debate and discussion, a merger of the Valley’s three metropolitan planning organizations could happen as soon as this week.

The City Commission voted its approval of a resolution backing the merger of the three Valley transportation agencies which oversee local highway projects and funding allocations.

“I think it puts us real close,” Mayor Chris Boswell said after a special commission meeting yesterday morning. “We’re still waiting on some other folks, but we basically approved this merger on terms we believe are good terms. We have to make sure everybody else agrees.”

Merging the three Valley MPOs into a single entity would be the culmination of four years of negotiations, and a Valley MPO would become the fifth-largest MPO in the state. A combined MPO would open up vast new avenues of TxDOT funding which potentially could turn into hundreds of millions of additional dollars in road projects.

“I’m still holding my breath to make sure that there are no last-minute hiccups, but yeah, we were a pretty long way away and we’ve accomplished a lot to this point,” Boswell said.

“ San Benito, I think, meets tomorrow. Brownsville may not have to meet again,” he added. “I think we’re kind of waiting on San Benito and also waiting on maybe some comments from Pharr. If everybody’s in agreement with the final form of the re-designation agreement, then we’ll probably be announcing it on Thursday in Austin by Senator (Chuy) Hinojosa and maybe some sort of signing ceremony.”

In San Benito, a vote on the merger was delayed last week due to what City Manager Manuel de la Rosa said were technical considerations which the city wanted to run by legal counsel.

During a give-and-take between San Benito officials and county Commissioner Gus Ruiz at the regular Harlingen-San Benito MPO meeting, it appeared San Benito officials were balking in part because the city had not been given a seat on the board of a merged MPO.

Ruiz told de la Rosa and city Commissioner Rick Guerra the County Commissioner’s Court had voted to re-designate one of its spots on the board to San Benito, and that he was unsure why the city was unable to decide on the merger question.

“Nobody told us that,” Guerra responded to Ruiz’s saying the county had voted to give up an MPO board position to San Benito.

The San Benito City Commission will meet today in a special session to take up the MPO merger language and possibly vote on the merger.