Brownsville’s new transit terminal nears completion

This is a project Metro Electric, Inc. is currently working on.

Brownsville’s new transit terminal nears completion
August 27, 2011 8:06 PM
By STEVE CLARK/The Brownsville Herald

Construction on the city’s new bus terminal is only about six weeks behind schedule, with a “soft” opening likely in mid- or late October and the grand opening slated for February, according to Norma Zamora, director of Brownsville Metro, formerly Brownsville Urban System.

The new terminal, dubbed “La Plaza at Brownsville,” is located between East Adams and East Jefferson, and International Boulevard and East 13th Street downtown. It will replace Market Square as Brownsville’s main bus terminal.

“I would say it’s probably about 95 percent done at this point,” Zamora said. “Right now they’re working on the street construction. We’re going to be converting the streets from asphalt to concrete (around the terminal). Right now they’re finalizing road construction on Adams.”

East Jefferson will close immediately after Labor Day and should reopen the first week of October. The terminal project includes a new 252-space parking garage at 14th and Adams that officials are counting on to generate significant revenue. The terminal is costing $31 million to build and the parking garage another $5 million, Zamora said. Federal funds covered 80 percent of the cost of design, land acquisition, demolition and construction. The city of Brownsville and the Brownsville Public Utilities Board put up the remainder. Zamora said money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — the stimulus act — were vital to getting the project done.

“We’ve had to look for some money elsewhere, it but it got us to really close to getting this project complete,” she said. “We’re still negotiating some (local) funding, but we hope to get all that resolved within next couple weeks.”

As the number of city buses and fixed routes has grown over the years, Market Square has become increasingly congested. Brownsville Metro, with 19 buses in operation on 15 routes, has experienced a 9 percent increase in ridership since last year. Annual ridership, which had earlier suffered a drop, should be back up to around 1.5 million or 1.6 million for the current fiscal year, Zamora said.

In addition to the local bus service and regional bus service, La Plaza was designed to accommodate and is expecting 14 intercity and international bus lines — including several that don’t currently serve the city. Zamora said those projections haven’t changed, despite violence-related issues with traveling in Mexico.

The terminal also includes space for restaurants and retailers. Zamora said Brownsville Metro and the assistant city attorney are negotiating contracts with two chain restaurants that want to open locations in the terminal. She thinks the new facility will help jump-start downtown from an economic development perspective.

“I believe this will be the catalyst that downtown needs to generate revitalization,” she said.

Brownsville Urban System, now Brownsville Metro, was formed in 1979 when the city of Brownsville acquired Brownsville Transportation Company, the last privately owned urban public transit system in the state.