HARLINGEN, TX- The Port of Harlingen Authority was awarded more than $6.9 million in grant funding from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Seaport Connectivity Program (SCP). Texas Transportation Commission members approved the list of projects during their regular meeting Thursday, Sept, 28. Project selection was done by a grant committee and then approved by the Port Authority Advisory Committee prior to being presented for approval by the Transportation Commission.
Formally the Rider Grant Program, SCP is as part of the State of Texas’ historic port funding to be considered for final approval by the Texas Transportation Commission in September. The proposed investment in infrastructure and seaport connectivity will help increase the economic impact of Texas ports by supporting more than $240 million in projects statewide.
During the 88th Legislative Session, state leaders allocated money that created two programs funded by the state through the General Appropriations Act. The SCP is set for public roadway projects that will improve connectivity to Texas Ports. Funding is also available through the Maritime Infrastructure Program (MIP), for maritime port capital improvement projects. Grant funding for The Port of Harlingen will go toward four projects over two years, with a 25% project match by the Port, which includes:
- Roadway Illumination Safety and Infrastructure Resiliency Project: Roadway illumination improvements along Port Road, Cemetery Road, and roads leading to Port entrance/exits to FM106 and Robles Road and upgrades to the drainage ditch along the interior portion of Port Rd. to dissipate road erosion. (Funding 2024)
- FM 106 Railroad Approach Safety Project: includes the removal of asphalt approaches to the rail and replaces the material with 80 ft, 9″ concrete approaches. This project will provide added measures for improved safety for the traveling public. (Funding 2024)
- Eastside FM1846 Port Traffic Congestion Mitigation Project: set to widen a portion of FM 1846 (Oscar Williams Rd.) between the intersection of Cemetery Rd. and Robles Rd, providing deceleration and acceleration lanes for truck traffic, as well as an overhead flashing beacon at the intersection of FM 1846 and Robles Rd. (Funding 2025)
- FM 106 and FM 509 Intersection Port Connectivity Safety and Resiliency Project: will upgrade this intersection from asphalt to concrete. Providing concrete westbound approaches to the intersection on all approaches on FM 509 and FM 106, with extended approaches on the southbound approach left turning lane on FM 509 and right turning lane onto FM 106. (Funding 2025)
“Port connectivity is vital toward the growth and opportunities for current and future development of any port,” Port Director Walker Smith said. “Accessibility and safety are just as important as capacity and location. Before this last session our legislatures really stepped up to the plate listening to Texas Ports in meetings, committee hearings and tours and came through with money to improve what is the number one ranked state for tonnage in waterborne commerce nationwide.”
Smith said these projects also serve a secondary but very crucial role in enhancing public safety around The Port of Harlingen.
“The Port of Harlingen has been a part of the fabric of the community since we began operations in 1952 and just as these roadways provide connectivity to the Port for commerce, they also serve as everyday routes for the general public to connect them between Harlingen, Rio Hondo, San Benito and the surrounding areas. These projects are ones we have been pushing for a few years now and we are very excited to be able to see these come to fruition.”
In 2022, Port officials made spearheading funding for Texas Ports a priority, reaching out to officials both independently and as a member of the Texas Ports Association. The Port of Harlingen was asked to testify to the House Transportation Committee in September and October of last year.
“Established funding for Texas Ports has been non-existent and there are hundreds of improvement projects and needs throughout Texas that State funding can help jump start,” Smith said. “The state as a funding source is something done in Florida, Louisiana and California, among other places. We are very grateful our leadership listened and stepped up the plate with funds.”
Smith said local leadership including Sen. Morgan LaMantia, Rep. Janie Lopez, Rep. Oscar Longoria, and House Transportation Committee Chair Rep. Terry Canales, along with Gov. Greg Abbott are giving Texas a boost with pumping improvement funds into ports and port infrastructure.
“South Texas ports play a vital role in our economy and are key to the future development of our region. I was proud to work with the Port of Harlingen this session, and I look forward to continuing our working relationship,” said Sen. LaMantia. “I appreciate the leadership in the legislature and at TxDOT, and thank them for their continued commitment to our ports.”
The Texas Transportation Commission has also made Texas ports a higher priority. Especially as Texas ranks first nationwide for total waterborne tonnage handled and total foreign waterborne tonnage of imports and exports in 2020. Texas has also become the world’s 10th largest economy when comparing Texas Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to national GDP’s, generating more than $308 billion in annual overall trade.
“Approving funding for ports like the Port of Harlingen is not only important for seaport connectivity, but also as a driver in economic development,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Alejandro “Alex” G. Meade. “As the representative from the Rio Grande Valley, the port is very important to me; improvements to Port of Harlingen not only make the region more competitive but helps to continue to grow Texas’ economy.”
Projects are set to begin Spring 2024.
For more information, contact Amy Lynch, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, at (956) 423-0283 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about The Port of Harlingen Authority, visit portofharlingen.com.