Gov. Abbott to sign Rio Grande Valley MPO merger

The Rio Grande Valley Metroplitain Planning Organization signing on Wednesday, April,24, 2019 in Weslaco. Photo by Delcia Lopez/ dlopez@themonitor.com

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday is scheduled to sign the merger of the three Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organizations, which are responsible for securing federal transportation funds funneled to Texas, giving the South Texas officials the final signature needed to complete the merger.

The signing is set for Friday in the governor’s public reception room at the Capitol in Austin, where Abbott’s office has invited Valley legislators, stakeholders and others for the 11 a.m. signing ceremony. Hidalgo County MPO Director Andrew Canon plans to attend, as well as a group of the leaders who helped make the MPO merger happen.

Abbott’s signature will give Canon and South Texas officials the final green light to merge the Brownsville MPO, Harlingen-San Benito MPO and Hidalgo County MPO. The final merger is expected by Oct. 1, Canon said.

Friday’s signing marks the second MPO merger-related event in Austin recently, with Canon and a Valley delegation of several mayors and others formally presenting the agreement’s formal documents to the Texas Transportation Commission in late April.

“Today is indeed a great day,” State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa began when the transportation commission’s chair, J. Bruce Bugg Jr., ceded the floor of that April meeting to Hinojosa. He was flanked by Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez, who Hinojosa called “the hammer” in his work to get the merger accomplished.

Hernandez joined Hinojosa, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño and Precinct 2 Hidalgo County Commissioner Eddie Cantu in giving brief remarks to the transportation commission.

“Today I want to thank all of you for your patience,” Martinez said, adding that he was proud of the delegation for coming together. “We have a lot of wonderful people in the Valley and it’s just a matter of all of us recognizing that we’re all equally important and that everyone matters.”

For years, though, Martinez was not on board with the merger, while Hernandez, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez and others pushed for a Valley-wide merger. But the day before the April meeting, mayors from the largest South Texas cities gathered in Weslaco for a signing ceremony of their own. There was no criticism of Martinez or others at that event.

“People put their egos outside the door, and we asked: What do we need to make ourselves better so that everybody wins?” Hernandez said.