Brownsville Accelerates Staffing to Meet ARPA Deadlines, Program Manager Picked for Cannery and West Rail Trail Projects
Feature Image: A 2011 photo of the Union Pacific rail track at the Palm Boulevard crossing. This is the beginning (south end) of the future West Rail Trail, expected to be complete in late 2022.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Brownsville (Cameron County) — The City Commission approved the appointment of a private engineering firm to act as program manager on the Cannery Public Market and West Rail Trail projects.
The 6.6-mile route of the abandoned UP railroad right of way that will become the WRT.
A result of the windfall in federal funding that has been going out to cities, school districts and counties across the country through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is that local public works departments are understaffed in comparison to the number of capital improvement projects getting funded.
Assistant City Manager Bryant Walker informed the commission at the Oct. 19 regular session that the infusion of ARPA dollars more than quadrupled the volume of funds available. The total volume of projects to be administered by the Engineering and Public Works Department has created staff capacity challenges.
A condition imposed on the use of federal ARPA funds is that they be spent by Dec. 31, 2024.
“Thus, the proposal for project management services would provide support to ensure ARPA capital projects are completed on-schedule and on-budget, while ensuring proper management oversight of CIP projects. The West Rail Trail and Cannery Public Market projects are also being proposed for inclusion in the project management services,” Walker said.
The selected firm, Halff Associates Inc., is one of several engineering firms that was already pre-qualified to take on projects for the City of Brownsville. The firm has already been appointed program manager for the Los Tomates Regional Detention Facility and the Downtown Brownsville Utility Improvements, (a water/wastewater lines replacement project).
Walker said a contractor award for the West Rail Trail project is scheduled for consideration on Oct. 28. A ceremonial groundbreaking is to take place Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. at 401 Old Military Highway.
The Cannery Public Market contractor award will be considered sometime the first weeks of November.
The Brownsville Herald reported on Oct. 18 that the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization awarded the city $900,000 for benches, shade structures and other amenities along a 6.6 mile section of decommissioned Union Pacific railroad right-of-way. In addition, the city had earmarked $8 million for the West Rail Trail, which is often simply referred to as the WRT.
On Oct. 1, the Texas Department of Transportation notified the city that it could proceed with construction on the hike-and-bike trail. The WRT has been a passion project in the community for over 13 years, ever since Union Pacific removed the track and relocated the route.
The WRT will feature a 12-foot-wide trail from Brownsville’s Riverside Park to the western terminus of Belden Trail to Interstate 69 East just north of the 77 Flea Market, and terminating at Railroad Street.
VBX reported in a March 31, 2021 article that the city was redeveloping a large galvanized steel Quonset hut located adjacent to the Gladys Porter Zoo. The Cannery will be a food hub project that will become a new home for the Brownsville Farmers Market and the Brownsville Wellness Coalition, as wells as an extension facility for the Pharr-based Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley.
The Cannery’s projected cost is now about $1.9 million. Megamorphosis Inc. of Harlingen is the project architect.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.