Harlingen, San Benito lay out plans to repair roads

HARLINGEN — As wish lists go, it’s $80 million worth of highway goodies.

The Harlingen-San Benito Metropolitan Planning Organization approved 13 projects be submitted to the Texas Department of Transportation as “placeholders” which, if funded, would proceed over the next 10 years.

The local projects to be spread out over that period are required by TxDOT in anticipation of additional local highways funding thanks to voter approval of Propositions 1 and 7.

“We’re just trying to encumber the money right now, basically,” said board member David Garza, Cameron County commissioner for Precinct 3.

Prop 1 received overwhelming support from Texas voters in 2014. It redirects a portion of oil and gas tax revenues that typically go into the Economic Stabilization Fund to the State Highway Fund.

Prop 7 was passed in 2015. It says if the state collects more than $28 billion from the sales and use tax in one fiscal year, the next $2.5 billion of tax revenue goes to the State Highway Fund to build, maintain and restore non-tolled public roads and repay transportation-related debt.

The biggest project, with a projected cost of $28 million, would widen Business 77 from the Arroyo Colorado Bridge to State Highway 345 (North Sam Houston Boulevard in San Benito) from four lanes to six lanes. It would add a lane on each side of the road with a raised median stretched along 4.2 miles.

“The one that I question is moving all those electrical wires. We don’t have that kind of money, and we would be responsible,” said San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez, vice chair of the planning group.

“A partnership could be worked out” with Cameron County, suggested Joel Garza, the planning organization’s director. “This is projected for 2024, so we still have some time to work with each other.”

But county commissioner Garza said San Benito may not have to fund replacing utility lines due to the highway widening.

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