A plan by the Edinburg City Council to establish a downtown bus trolley system, which would serve thousands of people who work, live, shop and own businesses in that key region, remains on the right road, the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation has announced.
On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, the Edinburg Mayor and City Council City Council approved committing $126,000 as a local match for an innovative federal program that through Valley Metro – if approved by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) – would provide an additional $719,000 to establish the first-ever downtown bus routes in the local community.
The $126,000 local match, which was part of a city resolution, is officially known as a letter of commitment required by the federal government, and would come from the FTA’s Low or No Emission (Low-No) Bus Program. The Low-No program supports projects sponsored by transit agencies to bring advanced, American-made bus technologies such as battery electric power and hydrogen fuel cells into service nationwide.
A decision on the city’s request for the $719,000 federal funding is expected to be announced later this summer or early fall. If fully-funded by the FTA, and combined with the city’s $126,000 local match, the bus trolley service would represent a total investment of $845,000.
The proposal calls for Edinburg acquiring access to two Villager (or similar) electric bus trolleys, valued at $740,000 (FTA award of $629,000, Edinburg match of $111,000), with an additional $105,000 (FTA award of $90,000), Edinburg match of $15,000) for support equipment and training
Valley Metro, which is part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council (LRGVDC), provides public bus transportation in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata counties, linking the major cities, as well as The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campuses throughout the Valley.
Sonia Marroquín, Edinburg Assistant City Manager, has been helping spearhead the mayor’s and city councilmembers’ strategies to continue improving transportation and business in Edinburg.
“Edinburg is committed to introducing electric trolleys in the downtown area, since this invitation supports Edinburg’s City Council’s vision for an Inner-City trolley bus service designed to increase prosperity for downtown restaurants and other businesses,” Marroquín stated in her correspondence to Ron Garza, the LRGVDC’s Executive Director. “Please accept this letter as demonstration of commitment from the City of Edinburg in allocating budget funds in the amount of $126,000 for the 2018-2020 fiscal years. The funds will be utilized as local match towards the Federal Transportation (FTA) grant for the Low to No (Low-No) Program.”
The Edinburg Low Emission Bus Program would also ease congestion and encourage other modes of transportation, she added.
“The main purpose of the Low-No Program is to support the transition of the nation’s transit fleet to the lowest pollution and most energy efficient transit vehicles,” Marroquín explained. “The Low-No Program provides funding to State and local governmental authorities for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses, including acquisition, construction, and leasing or required supporting facilities.”
Late last February, Edinburg Council member Gilbert Enríquez raised the possibility of the downtown trolley bus service, which would provide the large number of persons who gather daily at the Hidalgo County Courthouse, with a fixed route that would conveniently and affordably transport them back and forth to dozens of nearby businesses, which serve as the heart of the city’s downtown economy.
“There are a lot of people who work in the courthouse who don’t want to go to the parking lot, get their cars, then try to find parking where the restaurants are located, where they probably won’t find parking, and they can’t do all that within their lunch hour,” Enríquez illustrated. “One of the things I think would be beneficial would be to have some type of bus trolley system just for the downtown area. Since we are soon going to open the Edinburg Transit Terminal nearby, could Valley Metro help our downtown residents and businesses?”
The Edinburg Transit Terminal’s location at 617 W. University Drive between 6th and 7th streets strategically places it near institutions, facilities, and businesses which draw thousands of visitors daily during the workweek from throughout deep South Texas.
The Edinburg Transit Terminal is tentatively scheduled to open later this summer or early this fall. The 15,000-square-foot, two-story Edinburg Transit Terminal, which is being built on a 1.2 acre site donated by the Edinburg EDC, is located between The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Edinburg City Hall. It will serve as a home for Valley Metro.