WESLACO In many people's minds, blessing of the fleet conjures up images of boats, nets, shrimp and the sea. But in land-bound Weslaco, the fleet blessing was of 23 buses ready to hit the road on the 27th of this month.

The Kickoff Ceremony with the blessing was held on a windy morning and 14 of the buses (the rest will be in next month) showed up in fine form, as did many dignitaries from across the Valley.

Through the ARA - American Reinvestment Act - the Valley Metro (previously Rio Metro, Rio Transit and Harlingen Express) has been able to replace their entire fleet. Connecting to the "BUS" Brownsville Urban System, McAllen's Metro and SPI's The Wave, they also connect from Harlingen over to Mission and points in between, up to Edinburg and Willacy County.

"This is an exciting day because our service will be revamped 100 percent," said Rodney Gomez, Valley Metro program administrator. "The public will be receiving first class service. The buses are fully equipped with bike racks and are all ADA approved with ramps and designated sitting areas."

Operating from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with some routes on Saturday, they have submitted a plan to keep the routes going until 7 p.m. through the week and on Saturdays.

Looking to the future, Gomez is equally excited about the possibility of a commuter train systems and sees a win-win situation between the train and the Valley Metro.

"We'll take the people from the rail to their destination and their destination to the rail," he said.

But for now, this important part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council has a winner in these clean, safe, new buses.

"We're a Valley-wide entity."