Edinburg stands to greatly benefit from a tentative change of course for the Hidalgo County Loop, according to city economic officials.
The Edinburg portion of the loop, or section “D,” was presented again for public comment at the Edinburg North High School library on Feb. 26.
At that time a new Technically Preferred Alignment, also supported by the City, showed the Loop potentially landing on existing right of way on FM 2812 in north Edinburg.
The placement would be a boon for development, according to city economic officials. The new route would also bring traffic from the international bridges, and provide a direct link to the city’s industrial park located immediately south of the airport.
The city’s goal is to place the loop on FM 2812 just south of the South Texas International Airport, which enables the city to start lobbying for a service road or a road that will be continuous leading directly to the airport.
“I think the whole loop system is going to be a benefit for the entire county, but in particular Edinburg section “D” will go near 2812 north of Edinburg (and) that is going to help us tremendously for the flow of traffic and to bring trade from the bridges,” said Edinburg Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) executive director Ramiro Garza.
“Part of the purpose of this is to facilitate traffic flow, and our airport does enter the Foreign Trade Zone, so this access is going to give a direct link to the airport by way of 281 and also to our industrial park immediately south of that. Definitely it’s going to help us improve transportation,” he said.
While FM 2812 is not the final decision yet for the loop in Edinburg, the route’s potential minimal impact on houses and businesses makes it ideal as the Technically Preferred route, according to loop engineers.
A Technically Preferred Alignment is a coined term used by the Federal Highway Administration to name a corridor that poses the “least impact” among all other routes following an evaluation matrix, engineers say.
“The RMA has a mantra to recieve comments and modify and try to make everybody happy and that’s exactly what we are doing,” said Reza Badiozzamani, deputy development manager for Hidalgo County Roadbuilders. “Hopefully, now we have an alignment that’s set to make everybody happy which is really the goal.”
The Edinburg City Council approved a resolution making FM 2812 in the city’s northern region a “priority road” at a meeting on Feb. 17.
Councilmembers essentially agreed that 2812 would make the “most sense” because past designs for the proposed loop put it about a mile north of the airport, which meant traffic would have to double back, according to Edinburg mayor Joe Ochoa.
“We have been in discussion with the consultants and engineers as well as the RMA, and talking with our engineers from the airport, and have agreed that 2812 would make the most sense because the current proposed loop that goes around it would be about a mile north of the airport (and) that means traffic would have to come back around to the airport,” Ochoa said.
“If we go on the bottom half with (FM) 2812, then we can start lobbying for a service road or a road that will be continuous leading directly to the airport. It would make more sense,” he said.
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has said that Texas will receive $3.1 billion in infrastructure investment funding.
That money for Texas infrastructure would go to those shovel-ready projects that will create jobs and serve communities for decades, according to Valley leaders.
The RMA had reported earlier that the loop could be paid through a series of four financial mechanisms including tolls on trucks, $10 vehicle registration fees, a Transportation Reinvestment Zone (TRZ), and pass-through financing from the state which will pay Hidalgo County future gas tax money for future construction.
The TRZ will utilize fees levied on development as it grows along the proposed loop, and assesses like a tax against development. The TRZ is not a new tax in itself, according to the RMA. Money is used to “retire bonds” that are sold up front to build it.
First bonds are sold to build the roads, the sale of those bonds creates money to build the road, and as the road is built then they pay a fee to retire that bond, according to the RMA.
When those bonds are paid off those fees are still coming from these new businesses and that money is money is being used for future transportation projects in the county.