Trail planning organization hiring architect for regional concept

HARLINGEN – The Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization has been given the go-ahead to hire a consultant to deliver a biking and pedestrian master plan for the region.

J. Joel Garza Jr., the organization’s director, told board members Wednesday the staff had narrowed the search to three finalists.

Halff Associates, the engineering and architectural firm based in Richardson, topped the list, Garza said.

“Hopefully we can get a contract with them within the next two or three weeks,” Garza said, noting his budget for the contract is $75,000. “They did the Harlingen Trail Master Plan back in 2010. They’re currently doing the Cameron County Active Tourism Plan … and of course they have experience throughout the whole state.”

The HSBMPO bicycle and pedestrian plan the consultants arrive at, he said, will inventory what the region has and where it needs to go. Garza said stakeholders, city leaders, and others will have input into how the plan develops.

“After the inventory, they’ll go back and do recommendations on how to connect the gaps, look at different modes or destinations, and how we can connect those with areas such as schools and parks.”

Garza said the master “bike and ped” plan will explore short-term project of from one to three years, and also have recommendations for longer-term projects, pushing out five to 10 years.

If no contract agreement on the study can be reached with Halff, he said the board authorized HSBMPO to then turn to the second firm on its list.

The HSBMPO is a federally-mandated transportation requirement for areas of the country that are deemed to have assumed “metropolitan” status. The organization provides regional transportation planning and serves as liaison with state and federal governments.

The organization consists of the following cities and areas: Harlingen, San Benito, Primera, Santa Rosa, Palm Valley, Rio Hondo, La Feria, Los Indios, Combes and Precincts 3 and 4 of Cameron County.