Texas Rail Gets Pres.’ OK

Sat October 16, 2004 - West Edition

BROWNSVILLE, TX (AP) A rail project that will divert tracks west of the city and over a new bridge to Mexico has received a presidential permit, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said.

Hutchison, R-Dallas, said the permit will allow Cameron County to proceed with financing, design plans and construction for the project.

County officials say the $24 million project will help the economy and alleviate traffic congestion from 17 rail-street crossings in Brownsville’s downtown. They also say the project will save $36-$43 million for planned overpasses.

In a news release, Hutchison said she had achieved the permit in 19 months, compared to the usual three to five years.

“With more than 30 federal agencies to be consulted, our national, state and local effort won approval for this initiative in record time,” she said.

Politicians have been battling over where to locate the next international rail bridge.

Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa supports the West Rail project, but Port of Brownsville officials backed by U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, want an international bridge between Mexico and the Port of Brownsville.

The port envisions a trade route from Asia to Mexico’s Pacific Coast to Brownsville via rail across Mexico. Port officials say Asian companies want alternatives to California’s clogged Pacific ports.

Ortiz said the more bridges, the better.

“I support all bridges and infrastructure to accommodate the traffic and trade that crosses the border into south Texas,” he said. “The more crossings we can build along the border, the less time visitors and trucks will have to wait in line.”