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TX: City searching for transit center site

For years, travelers have stood in a convenience store parking lot waiting to catch buses headed out of town.

At the Stripes store, they buy their tickets, standing in the sun and rain to board buses bound for stops in the United States and Mexico.

It's not a safe and comfy way to travel.

All that might change.

After two years of planning, the search is on for a site for the city's $5 million transit center.

Inside its terminal, businesses such as fast-food restaurants and retail shops are expected to rent space from the city.

Earlier this week, city commissioners met in closed session to discuss a possible site for the transit center that would turn the city into a hub for Rio Grande Valley bus lines.

"We're looking at different possible locations," Assistant City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said yesterday. "We haven't chosen any sites or made any offers yet."

The city is working with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council to select the site for the transit center to be funded through $5 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration.

Ron Garza, the development council's executive director, said "areas being more deeply analyzed" include sites near Valley International Airport, Valle Vista Mall, the medical complex and downtown.

"Harlingen is the hub of all our spokes in the Valley," Garza said, referring to Valley Metro bus routes.

For Valley Metro, which has transformed bus travel in Harlingen and across the Rio Grande Valley, the transit center would serve as a regional hub.

"From a transportation perspective, Harlingen plays a major, major role," he said. "You have individuals traveling east and west within the Valley and north and south. It's key to the future growth of transportation options."

Site selection

Factors expected to lead to the site's selection include accessibility to bus riders and the property's price as well as its proximity to existing and future bus routes, Garza said.

"Accessibility is the number one factor along with cost of land," Garza said. "Being public transportation, this has to be accessible to all the riders. The more accessible the more riders you're going to get."

Last year, Gonzalez said plans were set for a two-acre site.

But apparently plans have changed.

"We haven't determined how big we want the facility to be," Gonzalez said.

Modernizing mass transit

Under the city's new 10-year comprehensive plan, the transit center ranks as No. 13 on a priority list.

The transit center would serve as a hub for buses operated by Valley Metro, Valley Transit Co. and Greyhound along with bus companies such as Adame, Tornado and El Expreso that offer service into Mexico.

In Harlingen, the transit center is expected to help modernize mass transit.

For decades, Valley Transit Co.'s station has served as the city's bus center at 215 East Monroe Ave.

The new facility would feature a terminal with bays for buses serving the area, expected to boost the city's sales tax revenues.

Monday, commissioners met with City Attorney Allison Bastian to determine whether discussing the proposed "transit terminal expansion" in open session "would have a detrimental effect on the position of the city of Harlingen and a third person."

Commissioners took no action after the meeting.

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