By ABBEY KUNKLE
Special to the PRESS
January 8, 2015
The first City Council meeting of the year tackled some big projects, chief among them were continuing discussions about the Second Causeway Project and Convention Centre renovations.
Cameron Co. Commissioner Dan Sanchez and Cameron Co. Administrator Pete Sepulveda gave a presentation and update on the second causeway which will be built on the north side of the Island. The goals of the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority (CCRMA) for the causeway are to improve economic development, relieve traffic congestion, and to provide the proper infrastructure to handle the population growth between the Rio Grande Valley and its sister cities in Mexico from the current 3.5 million people to an estimated 7 million or more within the next 25 years.
The CCRMA is currently working on 25 different projects throughout the county including some in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT); the second causeway is one of their largest. Their plan is to improve roadways to have direct connectivity from the McAllen area to the Island. On Dec. 26, 2014, the CCRMA fulfilled a huge milestone with the submittal of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), a 300 page document that took almost six years to create. The schematic design for the bridge structure is 90 percent complete and should be at 100 percent within the next 90 days. Though the project has come a long way there still remain things to do before being granted environmental clearance. Updates will continue to be presented to the Council in the coming months. Mayor Barry Patel thanked the commissioners for their attendance and said, “We look forward to being fruitful, partnering with the county on this and many other projects.”
The Convention Centre Renovation project was also discussed during the meeting, and the Council approved a motion for Public Works Director Armando Gutierrez to create a plan to add a lighted sidewalk along Park Rd. 100 to cover the length of the Centre’s property. Recent rains have inhibited current renovations, but two large sections of concrete have been poured, and phase one is coming along. Council members also discussed the funding of further renovations with options to pay for the renovations outright or to borrow money to maintain greater reserves in the City’s coffers. Council Member Alita Bagley said, “I don’t want to go into long term financing because we’re not doing an expansion, we’re doing repairs.” Members acknowledged that there are benefits to both sides. No action was taken on the subject, but the council will further review and consider the options. Along with the Convention Centre renovations, the council directed city staff to continue work on other city improvement projects including landscaping on Gulf Boulevard and repairs to the Visitors Center parking lot.
During announcements, council members reminded the community about upcoming events including the Causeway Run this weekend, a Mardi Gras event on Jan. 31 hosted by the Leadership of Laguna Madre, and a city workshop on Form Based Code on January 22.
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