WESLACO — Andrew Canon had just been named the first executive director of the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, and his bosses were already giving him a hard time.
“We have no November meeting,” Canon said at this week’s board meeting, citing the Council of Governments schedule that the recently created MPO follows. “I believe our next board meeting will actually be Dec. 11, since we follow the COG schedule.”
“For your first action as director,” said Pharr Mayor Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, who chairs the board of the Valley MPO, “is to take a month off?”
“No, sir,” Canon said. And Canon, Hernandez and the officials from across South Texas in the Ken Jones Board Room this week at the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council in Weslaco broke out into laughter.
The officials named Canon, the former Hidalgo County MPO director, the executive director of the newly formed MPO, which is responsible for securing money available to the state for transportation planning and construction in urbanized areas across Texas. The MPOs in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio have for years received the most funding due to their size as, by far, the largest MPOs in the state.
But over the summer, with the merger of the Brownsville MPO, Harlingen-San Benito MPO and Hidalgo County MPO, officials believe the new Valley MPO will fight for the same funding as the four largest MPOs. Officials said the new MPO will represent a region of more than 1 million people, as opposed to three separate organizations representing smaller slivers. Officials have projected hundreds of millions in additional funds that could be available to Valley transportation projects.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez emphasized this point in June when Gov. Greg Abbott signed the only still-blank signature line to complete the authorization for the merger.
“The creation of this merger will bring access to transportation dollars to access our traffic congestion and our growth,” Cortez said.
Officials were happy with Canon’s long tenure heading the Hidalgo County MPO and rewarded him with the job running the transportation organization covering the entire Valley.
“My job as executive director is to build regional collaboration on projects benefiting all of our residents,” Canon said in an interview after being named director. “Now, it’s not about what’s best for Harlingen, or Brownsville or McAllen. There are projects in Cameron County that affect people in Hidalgo County when they’re driving to the island, or projects in Hidalgo County that affect people when they’re driving to McAllen.
“This is an organization that will put forth the best projects for the region.”