Saturday, June 3, 2017

CITY TRIES TO TIE DOWN COUNTY ON WEST RAIL TRAIL

By Juan Montoya

First they tried to get the Cameron County Commissioners Court to "adopt" something called the Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Transportation and Tourism Plan.
When the commissioners balked at "adopting" the plan that would include the West Rail Trail championed by some very vocal west side Brownsville residents and championed by City of Brownsville commissioner Rose Gowen, the wording was changed to "support" and the commissioners approved it at a later meeting.

Now, the city has included an agenda item in the Tuesday June 6 meeting where the commissioners will ask the county counterparts to enter into a  proposed Memorandum of Understanding for the creation of a West Rail Trail. The executive session starts at 5:45 p.m. the regular meeting at 6 p.m. at commission chambers on the second floor of Brownsville City Hall, the old Federal Building at 1001 East Elizabeth Street,

That "active" plan being pushed by Gowen and Gonzalez consists of 179 pages of planned hike and bike trials that envisions uniting 10 cities in the Rio Grande Valley into one system.

However, adoption of the plan would – in effect – would have scrapped the plans for a West Loop road that has been singled out as a project by the Brownsville Metropolitan Organization (MPO), the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority (CCRMA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for the better part of of two decades and where millions of public dollars have already been spent.

The plans go back to 2004 when the CCRMA was established. As the CCRMA site explains: "On June 22, 2004 Cameron County Commissioners Court authorized the County Judge to file a petition to the Texas Transportation Commission to create a Regional Mobility Authority (RMA) for the Cameron County area and it was approved by the Texas Transportation Commission on September 30, 2004 . The Commissioners Court formally approved the conditions set forth by the Texas Transportation Commission for the RMA and subsequently appointed the Directors of the RMA. Shortly afterwards, Governor Rick Perry appointed David Allex of Harlingen as the Chairman of the RMA...

"The initial projects that were submitted with the RMA application to the Texas Transportation Commission were the West Loop project in Brownsville and the second causeway in the Port Isabel/South Padre Island area."

A vocal group in west Brownsville has vowed to stop the road and have a hike and bike trail. When Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño ran for office he pledged to support to stop the road to court their political support. He is counting on that support for his reelection bid in 2018.

The county is the main landowner of property and right-of-way, including the abandoned Union Pacific Railroad grade. Hike and bike trail advocates have failed to convince commissioners that they should abandon the pan for a road and install a hike and bike trail instead.

When Ramiro Gonzalez – who now goes by the title of the City of Brownsville Governmental Affairs Liaison – came before the county commissioners back in April, he said the "adoption" of the plan would not cost the city "one penny" and that he was not asking for money. This drew a sharp rebuke from Pct. 3 commissioner David Garza who asked him if he had not gone before the City of Laguna Vista asking them for money for a study after they had adopted the same plan.

Despite the fact that Treviño came to Gonzalez's defense, the Gowen water carrier "clarified" for the court that he had indeed asked for funds from Laguna Vista and would probably be back to ask the county for funds to "participate" in the plan after they "adopted" it.
Gonzalez and Treviño said that the mere adoption of the plan did not commit the county to spending "one dollar," an assertion disputed by county legal counsel Frank Martinez who said that the adoption would require "significant contributions by Cameron County to this plan."

Now it appears that Gowen and other trial advocates are hoping that the county will enter into the MOU they will try to pass Tuesday to try to coerce the county commissioners to scrap the plans for the road and use the right-of-way for a hike and bike trail. Treviño will probably go along with it when and if it gets to the county to .

But with the defeat of former District 4 commissioner John Villarreal (Brownsville's west side) – who the trail advocates endorsed in the past city election – the trail people's diminished political clout will probably not carry that much weight with the county.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brownsville will keep being Brownsville, choking its weak stabs at progress. will it ever wake up from its drunken stupor?

Anonymous said...

Any thing Ramiro "El Pediche" Gonzales is inbolved is pre directed to failure.

AT said...

Let them do it. Let them do their trail. They never use it either way.

Anonymous said...

Who is Ramiro "El Gordo" Gonzales related to that he keeps getting jobs he can't handle? Governmental Affairs Liaison?! Sounds like another job where he gets to feel important yet doesn't do anything to earn his keep!

Anonymous said...

From now on Ben Neece will be the real difference no more bs

Anonymous said...

Why is it that City of Brownsville (in particular Mayor Tony Martinez) refuses to participate in a regional/valley mobility/transportation planning group, but now seeks to join a bike and hike plan without knowing what the costs will be?????? Apparently, Rose Zavaleta Gowen is using this agenda item to formally poo-poo those who want a road on the old rail line. Hopefully, those who oppose this bike and hike trail will turn out in great numbers to protest and not let Queen Rose get away with this. There is no transparency in the Tony Martinez administration and very little public input is allowed. Is there any evidence that all these bike and hike trails will produce economic benefit to the city or county. What is the cost...especially the cost to patrol and provide safety on these trails??????

Anonymous said...

Trails make a neighborhood quiet, beautiful and family friendly. Why do you think the west side community wants the west rail trail so badly?

-They could have safe paths with lights, trees, benches, flowers, places for their kids to walk and play.
-Or semi-trucks barreling down and car accidents and exhaust pollution and noise.

Gee, which alternative would you choose if you lived there? A nicer neighborhood or a crappier neighborhood? Not a difficult choice.

rita