Congressman Cuellar Includes Language in Transportation Appropriations Bill to Give Border Communities a Greater Say in Transportation Priorities
Border infrastructure language will encourage participation from cities and counties in border infrastructure project selection
Today Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) announced he included language in the Fiscal Year 2017 U.S. House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations (THUD) bill that will encourage participation from city and county governments in the selection of Coordinated Border Infrastructure (CBI) projects, or those designed to alleviate congestion caused by international commercial traffic. The bill passed out of the full U.S. House Appropriations Committee today.
Late last year, the congressman worked to include language in the most recent highway bill to give states more flexibility to invest in border infrastructure affected by international commercial traffic. The highway bill language, which will generate an average of $3.67 billion per year for the next five years for Texas transportation projects, creates a CBI Reserve Fund, giving border states more flexibility in how they use federal transportation funds.
Under the highway bill, states like Texas can reserve up to 5 percent of statewide Surface Transportation Funds, used to preserve and improve conditions on roads, for projects along the border. This set-aside provides funding certainty and allows stakeholders and border communities to advocate for border infrastructure. These funds are vital given the trade done by border communities like those in the congressman’s district. The amount of truck traffic this commerce generates places a great strain on border roads, thus the need for set-aside funds.
Now the congressman is trying to give the local governments of these border communities greater leverage in determining where CBI funds go. Through the congressman’s recently secured appropriations language, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will encourage border state departments of transportation to include the governments of cities and counties along the border, those most impacted by CBI and whom CBI is intended to support, so that they have a greater voice in determining how these funds should be used.
“The language I have included in the Transportation Appropriations bill is meant to bring those affected to the table when it comes to CBI projects,” Congressman Cuellar said. “When local communities in my district like Laredo were recently left out of discussions on project selection, I knew something had to be done.
“Along with my colleagues, I have fought to make additional funds available to the border communities we serve. The large volumes of traffic passing over the border across South Texas place a tremendous strain on our border transportation infrastructure making it imperative that the infrastructure around our nation’s ports and trade centers remain in peak condition to ensure our economy keeps moving forward. I am looking forward to giving the local communities I serve a greater say in how their border infrastructure funds are put to use locally so that they can be fully included in future projects. I would like to thank THUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) and Ranking Member David Price (D-NC-4), as well as Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY-5) and Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), for their help in adding this language.”
“I thank Congressman Cuellar for working to include this language in the House Transportation Appropriations bill,” Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said. “As the mayor of a growing and economically important city that has not always received the transportation funds it is due, I will be making sure under my leadership that the City of Laredo is fully engaged in project selection discussions under this bill.”
“As the President of a bridge connecting the western portion of the Rio Grande Valley to Mexico, I know how valuable community input is to the allocation of coordinated border infrastructure funds,” said Sam Vale, president of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Company. “Allowing local communities greater input in the selection of projects can only allow for a more equitable distribution of funds.”
To see the language Congressman Cuellar included, please click here.