By Kevin Garcia
The Brownsville Herald
Union Pacific Engine 5047 received a roar of applause as it broke the ribbon at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, officially dedicating the new track running beneath Expressway 77/83 near Olmito.
The track is part of the Brownsville-Matamoros Railroad Relocation Demonstration Project. By June 15, trains running to and from the Port of Brownsville will use the new track to bypass the city. That means no more trains blocking traffic in front of the Cameron County Courthouse in downtown Brownsville.
Many officials, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi, U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska and Brownsville Mayor Blanca Vela, attended the event.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, said the $50 million project paid for by federal, state and local funds represents a historic step that improves transportation in Brownsville.
Moving the tracks from within the community out to the northern part of the community means there will be fewer vehicle accidents, Lucio said.
Young, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the port-sponsored project was included in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1973, a bill that Congress passed, in part, to help fund relocation projects.
In 1973, there were 10 (American cities) designated (for relocation) and this is the first one that has been finished, Young said. This is a gateway for both the north and the south, so this is very important in that respect.
Perry said Brownsville would be an example for the rest of the nation.
It (Brownsville) is the front door of America, Perry said. This is the kind of innovative transportation system that the citizens of this area have been waiting for.
The dedication ceremony was hosted by Raul A. Besteiro Jr., a driving force behind the relocation project. In honor of his service to the port and the city, the Brownsville Navigation District christened the new rail line the Raul A. Besteiro Jr. North Railroad Loop, and Vela proclaimed the day Raul A. Besteiro Day.
Union Pacific representative Joseph Adams said such praise for Besteiro is deserved, given the huge difference the new track will make to the city.
It will mean good service to the port and not having to go through downtown, Adams said.
Before the 1990s, trains passing through Brownsville had to cross 87 roads, blocking traffic and often slowing to 10 mph to reduce the chance of accidents. With the completion of the rail relocation, trains will now cross just eight roads.