Some who are considering the benefits of a proposed rail transportation system in the region say there is already a fabric in place for a wonderful city to emerge in the heart of Edinburg

On Thursday evening, the history department at South Texas College along with Futuro McAllen, a citizens’ organization dedicated to quality of life issues, held “An Introduction to Rail Mass Transportation in McAllen” presented by Sam Garcia, an architect with the McAllen firm of Rike, Ogden, Figueroa and Allex.

Speaking to a nearly full house in the Library at STC’s Pecan Campus Garcia, spoke about the value of adopting rail mass transit in the McAllen and Edinburg area.

The city’s unique nature; its past, present and future; the way large cities are developed; and a strategy to develop McAllen and Edinburg into a “world class cities” were the key issues of Garcia’s presentation. The cost of such a project, which could reach into the hundreds of millions, was not confirmed at the presentation.

“I think Edinburg and McAllen, especially in more recent years, are going to have work in tandem and decide what city they are going to be,” Garcia told the Edinburg Review after his presentation. “I think a lot of the growth that is happening in Edinburg is also indicative of the fact that the leadership there is starting to really pick up on a lot of ideas, and want to make the city better.”

In August, Edinburg councilmembers selected Broaddus & Associates as their consultant to develop a downtown revitalization plan tentatively within the next 11 to 12 months. The purpose of the plan, according to the City is to identify marketing strategies to attract business to downtown, physical enhancements and update the city’s architectural standards.

At that time officials with Broaddus said the rail running between the city and the university presents some unique challenges to develop the downtown.

“We always work in cities that have railroads running through them and they always present the opportunity for some creative ideas,” Stephen Coulston, vice president for Broaddus planning, said at the time. “From an urban planning perspective it’s not design, but developing a strategy or implementation plan by which you would then follow up with design and construction and implementation.”

A proposed track by Garcia would start at McAllen Miller Airport, continuing north through downtown McAllen, then along Bicentennial Blvd with stops at half-mile intervals he calls “catchment zones.” The proposed line would then extend to Edinburg, reaching the Hidalgo County Courthouse and the University of Texas-Pan American.

Every catchment zone would form a node of mid-rise developments where people live, work and play, according to Garcia. The nodes would encompass no more than a 15-minute walk on foot from every catchment zone and will drive vertical growth in the city — expand the tax base and create new opportunities for business, tourism, urban living, arts, and entertainment.

“Edinburg is a city that is not only home to political capital of the Rio Grande Valley metropolis, but also a research hub with the university and all the advantages it has there,” Garcia said. “Furthermore the streets, and the way everything is set up, there is already a fabric in place for a really wonderful city to emerge.

While no Edinburg officials were present at the McAllen meeting last week, Garcia intends to hold a similar meeting in the City tentatively by this month.