One of the most important things we've done at DOT in the past four and a half years is to provide good stewardship for the $48 billion in economic stimulus funds that were invested in America's transportation network. When we began awarding Recovery Act grants in 2009, I said, "These will be good projects, with no sweetheart deals and no boondoggles."
And yesterday, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela to celebrate the opening of one of those good projects, State Highway 550 in Brownsville, Texas. As Administrator Mendez said at the ribbon-cutting, "At DOT, we see projects through from start to finish."
The new highway offers an alternate route between the Port of Brownsville and US 77 / US 83, a key highway north, that Administrator Mendez announced was redesignated as I-69. SH 550 is a divided, limited-access road with two new tolled truck lanes allowing commercial drivers to bypass the City of Brownsville when carrying cargo to and from the port.
The project stands for many things that are important to the FHWA and all of us at DOT.
“It goes to prove that the Recovery Act did what it was intended to do,” Administrator Mendez said. “It created jobs. It put a lot of people to work.”
This project is also part of our effort to improve the infrastructure in border communities so our economy can continue to grow and create jobs through international trade. Trade isn’t just important to the economy of Brownsville or the economy of Texas. It’s essential to the economy of the entire nation.
SH 550 is also important because the Port of Brownsville plays a special role in U.S. trade. The port sits very close to the U.S.- Mexico border, and it is one of the closest U.S. ports to the eastern end of the Panama Canal. Making it easier for trucks to move between the busy port and Interstate 69 is critical to our economy.
Finally, by giving commercial vehicles access to truck-only lanes, we're reducing congestion on Brownsville-area roads and making those roads safer for everyone--truck drivers, passenger vehicle drivers, and passengers.
It's all part of investing in what President Obama calls an America that's built to last. And we are happy to have partnered with Cameron County and the Texas DOT to make it happen.