Construction could begin in 2011, would end in 2015

Sue Fleming, The Freer Press

Representatives of the Texas Department of Transportation delivered a feasibility study report last Monday to the Freer City Council regarding construction of an exclusive toll truck corridor extending from Laredo to Corpus Christi.

Presenter Laredo District Engineer Mario Medina said the project costs for the construction alternatives will range from an optional $709 million for two lanes with flexible pavement to $1.6 billion for four lanes with concrete pavement.

Much of the interest in the proposed corridor is due to growth in trade, type and quantity of freight moved in trucks through South Texas, which includes domestic freight between Laredo and Corpus Christi and between Laredo and Houston; U.S.-Mexico North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and waterborne container trade to and from Laredo/Mexico via the Port of Corpus Christi as well as domestic and NAFTA containerized freight between Laredo and Houston via Corpus Christi and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, he said.

"Freight traffic, local and the public would benefit," Medina noted.

A truck-only corridor would provide a safer means of travel, reducing congestion and enhancing safety with a speed limit of 80 mph, saving fuel from consistent speed as well as provide a potential hurricane evacuation route, he added.

The study report estimates construction of the roadway would begin in 2011 and be completed in 2015.

Afterward Laredo Area Engineer Carlos Rodriguez gave an update of the current following Duval County road projects:

Construction of a passing lane half a mile east of SH 16 to 2.4 miles west of Duval/Jim Wells County line, cost of $6.9 million to be completed by winter 2008. Grading pavement, addition of base materials, structures and surfacing, culvert end treatment, addition of signs and markings 18 miles west of Webb/Duval County line to Webb County/Duval County line, at a cost of $7.5 million to be completed by winter 2009. SH 44 rehabilitation Phase 2 at a cost of $4 million to be completed by spring 2008. Recently completed FM 716, adding shoulders, from FM 339 to FM 1329 at a cost of $3.3 million which began the summer of 2006.

Also answering questions during the presentation were Melisa Montemayor and Raul Leal of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Mary Capello of the Texas Migrant Council, Inc. along with associates Manuel DuQue, Rodney Rodriguez and Martha Wallace addressed council members afterward in request of endorsement as contractor of the Early Head Start/Head Start Program in Freer.

Capello said the organization has applied for grant monies in order to operate the local day care facility but need to submit endorsements from the city as well as justices of the peace.

"More than 70 centers in eight states are being operated by our councils," she said, "serving over 4,500 children in six Texas regions, providing instruction in areas most likely to predict reading success."

Capello said there would be collaboration with the local school district to make sure the children from ages three to five at Head Start would learn the same curriculum.

"We believe we can bring to Freer, to Duval County, the kind of expertise the children deserve," she said in part. "We will work with the community - every child is entitled to a high quality education."

Mayor Arnoldo Cantu and council members agreed to draft a resolution in support of the Texas Migrant Council as contractors of the local Head Start day care.

Afterward, the council unanimously voted to pay Ram-Bro Contracting, Inc. a final payment amount of $17,063.65 for wastewater collection system improvements work.

After review, the council unanimously approved to pay a settlement amount of $2,450 to Alicia Perez, former municipal court judge.

The council also unanimously voted to increase dog catcher Victor Garza working hours from 38 per week to 40.

In other business, Amy Jimenez was hired to fill the position of Administrative Assistant of the city secretary Cindy Lackey.

Attending the meeting were Sylvia Carrillo, Andrea Bierstedt, Orlando Navarro, Carlos Salinas, Manuel "Rolita" Estrada, Cantu and Lackey.