EDINBURG — A new $6 million transit terminal began operating here Monday, “finally” fulfilling a yearslong dream to revolutionize how people move throughout the heart of the city.
The new Edinburg Transit Terminal, 519 W. University Drive, was strategically positioned at the crux of higher education, the city’s downtown and the Hidalgo County seat, city officials said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
Located next to Edinburg City Hall, the terminal provides an easy mode of transportation for city employees, Hidalgo County Courthouse goers, and students, faculty and staff at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“Public transportation is something that every city and area needs to grow, and to have this here, I feel, is a catalyst for our area — tying everyone together,” Edinburg Economic Development Council Board President Hiren Govind said. “And I truly believe that this is going to help us get more businesses, more development coming to our area.”
The project is a partnership between the city, Edinburg EDC, Valley Metro, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and the Federal Transit Administration.
Most of the project’s funding came from the federal government, Tom Logan, director of regional transit at Valley Metro said.
“The land was part of the local match that we used to bring down those federal funds that paid 80% of the over $6 million investment that we made there,” Logan said during a Facebook Live video on the city’s page Friday.
The idea came about in 2013 as a result of a downtown revitalization plan, he said. City officials broke ground on the project about three years ago, but construction saw delays.
“The only word I want to use this morning is: finally. Finally we are here,” Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina said. “Today is an example of what happens when partners collaborate to advance in the RGV.”
Molina announced Valley Metro will also add a new route in November, called the Edinburg T Line, which will take riders from the transit terminal, up and down University Drive, and along Closner Boulevard to the Shoppes at Rio Grande Valley Edinburg.
“The route will operate Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.), and this route will be a convenient resource for residents, just to hop on or off, do some shopping and grab a bite to eat,” the mayor said. “This is a proud day for the city of Edinburg. Our hope is to see more projects in our city, to invest in public transportation, infrastructure and contribute to the community’s revitalization.”
Veronica Gonzales, who is deeply involved with the city as UTRGV’S vice president for governmental and community relations, as well as an Edinburg EDC board member and the incoming Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Board President, also announced another public transportation project in the works.
“I’m also excited to announce today that in that same spirit of improving how we move people in an eco-friendly and in a healthy manner, UTRGV and the city of Edinburg have agreed to connect the university to city hall, and actually all the way to the courthouse, with a wide, safe, and aesthetically pleasing walkway that will be the McIntyre Promenade Connector,” she said. “This walkway will be safe for pedestrian traffic, and it will allow the campus community easier access to city buildings, and of course, city employees and residents easier access to our campus.
“It also encourages walking, which we all know is important to good health,” she continued. “So It’s a win-win and another great example of the strong partnership between Edinburg and UTRGV.”
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, who attended the ceremony as president of the LRGVDC Council of Governments, noted that 25% of Rio Grande Valley residents do not live in the cities they work.
“What it means is mobility is so, so important in the Valley for economic development,” he said.
Valley Metro services are currently free and will remain that way for a while as residents grapple with an economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And to ensure riders are safe and comfortable while riding buses, terminal staff have already taken measures that uphold social distancing requirements.
“They already have Xs there where you can’t sit, so we’re already a leg up,” the mayor said. “They’ve already done that here inside the waiting center.”
Buses are also disinfected twice a day, Logan noted, and only operate at 50% capacity.
“This is what we envision for the rest of the Valley — facilities like this,” Logan added.
He noted Valley Metro already partners with facilities and metro services in three other cities: Brownsville, McAllen and South Padre Island. Two more facilities, however, are in the works: one in Harlingen and the other in San Juan.
“Infrastructure like this is needed,” he said.
The Edinburg Transit Terminal also opens the doors for another possible mode of transportation not seen in almost a century.
“The Valley back in the turn of the century was connected by the spider rail system, and we see the potential of it coming back in the future,” he said, noting an old rail system is located in the terminals’ vicinity. “So we’re leaving the seed there for the future potential passenger rail in the Valley.”