Hidalgo County OKs support of MPO merger

EDINBURG — Hidalgo County approved a resolution Tuesday in support of merging three metropolitan planning organizations into a single MPO to oversee long-term infrastructure projects throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

The commissioners court approved the resolution and a re-designation agreement drafted by the Texas Department of Transportation. The agreement, which federal law requires in order to combine the MPOs, essentially outlines the merger between the three existing entities — the Brownsville MPO, Harlingen-San Benito MPO and Hidalgo County MPO — and breaks down how many votes each city or county will have.

According to the agreement, Hidalgo County will have seven seats, or voting members, on a 31-member board, while Cameron County will have five.

Cities with populations over 50,000 will also be given a seat at the table. In Hidalgo County, McAllen will have three voting members, while Edinburg, Mission and Pharr will each have two.

Voting privileges were a big concern for the cities represented by the three MPOs, and at one point, the issue stalled the merger. However, after years of discussion, the merger appears to be moving forward at full speed with Edinburg, Pharr and Brownsville already onboard with the signing of the resolutions.

If all entities agree, the new single entity, dubbed the Rio Grande Valley MPO, will be able to access more funds from a larger pot of money set aside for organizations that have a population of more than 1.5 million. On their own, the current MPOs are too small population-wise to access those funds.