Monday, November 16, 2009

Proposal would tie two bridges at mid-point linking Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico

Proposal would tie two bridges at mid-point
November 15, 2009 10:02 PM
By EMMA PEREZ-TREVINO, The Brownsville Herald

An innovative project that would tie two international bridges at center point to both link Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico, is planned by the state, county and city.

The Texas Department of Transportation, Cameron County and Brownsville propose to tie Veterans International Bridge at Los Tomates with a parallel bridge.

Both bridges would be tied, but only at mid-point via a five-lane span.

"I think this (project) is the only one of its kind," County bridge Administrator Pete Sepulveda said.

"It (the tie-in) provides us options," in the movement of traffic, Sepulveda said.

And in connection with the project, the Federal Highway Administration has given notice to the public of an opportunity to provide input regarding the socio-economic and environmental effects of the proposed bridge

In the course of an environmental assessment of the project, FHWA issued the public notice via the Federal Register on Thursday, stating that a public hearing will be scheduled if persons request one on or before 5 p.m. Dec. 15.

A written request can be mailed to the Texas Department of Transportation District Engineer’s Office, P. O. Box 1717, Pharr, Texas, 78577.

The project calls for construction of a four-lane bridge for commercial trucks 32 feet downstream from the Veterans bridge.

The Veterans bridge and the proposed bridge would be connected at midpoint, "to provide flexibility in operation, maintenance, and security," the federal notice states.

In order to accomplish this, five bridge spans near the Rio Grande would join the bridges.

"This transitional connection would allow for one bridge to be operational while maintenance is undertaken on the opposite bridge," the notice states.

Furthermore, "this bridge connection section would allow traffic diversion from one bridge to another in case of an accident or emergency," the FHWA’s notice also points out.

The notice also states that it is not anticipated that the project would displace anyone. The proposal also would not require the purchase of additional rights-of-way and it would be constructed within an existing 300-feet wide right-of-way.

Sepulveda said the project is being developed jointly with Mexico officials.

The federal notice also points out that location maps, design plans, schematic, environmental assessment and other information regarding the proposed project are available for viewing at the TxDOT District office, 600 W. U.S. Expressway 83 in Pharr. The telephone number to schedule a viewing is (956) 702-6100.

McAllen and Brownsville Ranked 3rd & 4th in BusinessWeek's List of "Where the Jobs Will Be in 2010"

Where the Jobs Will Be in 2010

The recession might be technically over, but unemployment is rising month after month even in most of the nation's strongest job markets.

A full-fledged job recovery seems to be a long way away. But some metros are poised for significant job growth by the first quarter of next year. teamed up with Moody's to identify America's 25 next recovering job markets. These metros were ranked based on's projected job growth in the first three months of 2010.

Topping the list is Mount Vernon, Wash., a small town about 60 miles north of Seattle with just 48,000 workers. The town, which lost jobs quickly during the recession, could see a rebound, in part because tourism, retail, and hospitality will make a comeback as the economy improves. Additionally, the weak dollar will provide a boost to communities with international trading ports and metros that border Mexico, such as Brownsville, Tex. (a port town that is No. 4 on our list), and border town McCallen, Tex. (No. 3). Our list was also packed with towns that are closely linked to the energy industry (Billings, Mont., Houston, Tex., and Farmington, N.M.), college towns (College Station, Tex., Tuscaloosa, Ala., Auburn, Ala., and Lawrence, Kan.), and military towns (Columbus, Ga., Augusta, Ga., and Texarkana, Tex.).

None of the metros on the list experienced a housing bubble that had a disastrous pop. Miami, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Stockton, Calif., will likely be in a funk long after many Texas metros are in growth mode.

"These are areas that had little or no housing cycle and stand to benefit from the renewed firmness in commodity prices," said Chris Lefakis, an economist at Moody's "This could be an export-lead recovery with the replenishment of inventory leading to a resurgence in manufacturing."

Room for Growth in Manufacturing
The manufacturing sector has taken such a battering that it has a lot of room for improvement. Inventories have fallen to such low levels that manufacturers will have to increase production even to keep up with existing demand, Lefakis said.

A plant opening or just expanding can have a magnified impact on a small metro, giving a swift boost to the job market, said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa. But job growth elsewhere mostly will be slow and incremental, he said. Companies will be cautious about hiring and will expand overtime hours and bring on temporary workers before making permanent hires.

The good news is that overtime pay and the increase in temp workers will push up wages nationwide, which could result in more consumer spending, he said.

"If the economy begins to grow, it will be enough [for companies] to add slowly to payroll," Naroff said. "I'm not expecting a vigorous upturn."

Travel, hospitality, and retail could see more dramatic growth. Throughout the recession, Americans have cut down on travel, eating out, and shopping. If the economy improves, they'll add more entertainment to their budgets, he said.

"People might not go to Disney World," said Naroff. "But they might start going out to dinner once week."

New York City, which didn't make our list, could also have a great year, especially now that Wall Street is giving out bonuses "like 2008 never existed," he added.

The federal government will also play a key role in the recovery even as it begins to phase out tax incentives and other economic stimulus spending, Moody's Chief Economist Mark Zandi said on CNBC Nov. 3.

"Without the government, the consumer would be pulling back," Zandi said. "By early next year job losses will abate … so we will start to see wage and salary growth and government can begin to pass that baton off [to the private sector]. But it will be a tricky handoff."