McAllen is an elongated-shaped city that’s hemmed in by Edinburg and Mission on its eastern and western flanks, with boundaries running long-and-narrow.
The city’s shape may appear narrow on a map, but it has hardly kept Hidalgo County’s largest city from growing over the years. For decades, the historical north-south corridors of 10th and 23rd streets were sufficient for traffic flow. City planners knew years ago that wouldn’t be enough.
Bicentennial Boulevard was a logical place to start in figuring out how to improve the north/south traffic flow. Bicentennial starts at Expressway 77/83 near the city’s airport. It then ran north to Nolana Avenue, which is where it stopped for many years. Extending Bicentennial north from Nolana to Trenton Road was a big step for the city. That extension was completed by 2015.
“Bicentennial has been a capital improvement project for us for decades,” said Roy Rodriguez, the McAllen city manager. “McAllen has become a very large metro area, as has the whole county, so with all the traffic emerging, we have to be able to move traffic north-south.”
Extending Bicentennial beyond Nolana meant following the path of an existing irrigation canal, which eased right-of-way and property acquisition issues. It simplified the roadway’s expansion plans. The irrigation canal that for years ran between Nolana and Trenton today has a four-lane roadway in its place.
Next Phase Of Expansion
It took years of additional planning and the passing of a municipal bond to take the next step. In December 2019, city officials broke ground on a $12.6 million project that will extend Bicentennial from Trenton to state Highway 107. It’s a length of nearly three miles which will also in part follow the path of irrigation canals.
In recent weeks, the city celebrated the first phase of the latest Bicentennial project. The link between Trenton and Auburn Avenue was complete. The remaining segment of the new Bicentennial to 107 should soon see completion by the end of August 2021.
“It’s a really big deal,” Rodriguez said of Bicentennial’s expansion to the north, from the airport to 107. “We’re adding another major arterial roadway to our city.”
The flow of traffic promises to be efficient since building a roadway over where canals once ran limits access to other major roadways, minimizing cross streets and traffic lights. Some of McAllen’s higher-end subdivisions and residences will line the extended Bicentennial. Sidewalks will be on both sides of the new roadway, and at least one new park, the Morris Sensory Playground, is located near a stretch of the improved thoroughfare.
Only $2 million of the project comes from city sources. The remaining $10.6 million comes from the Texas Department of Transportation and the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization. It’s a key piece in McAllen’s efforts to improve traffic flow north as the city grows toward 107 and beyond. Farm fields and open space are quickly being taken up in north McAllen by upscale developments such as the Tres Lagos residential complex and the Valley’s Texas A&M University campus.
The extension of roadways north has been a priority in McAllen since at least the 1990s. Then-Mayor Othal Brand had the goal of having major entrances to the city that did not require going through Edinburg. The expansion of Bicentennial goes a long way toward reaching that goal.