This week, Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina and the city council gave a commitment for funds establish the city’s first downtown bus trolley system. The $126,000 letter of commitment is as a local match for a federal program that through Valley Metro – if approved by the Federal Transportation Administration – would provide an additional $719,000 to establish routes in the local community.
Funds from the federal goverment would come via the FTA’s Low or No Emission (Low-No) Bus Program. The Low-No program supports projects sponsored by transit agencies to bring advanced, American-made bus technologies into service nationwide. A decision on the city’s request for the $719,000 federal funding should come later this summer or early fall. A full FTA funding combined with the city’s $126,000 match would represent a total investment of $845,000.
The proposal calls for Edinburg acquiring access to two Villager (or similar) electric bus trolleys. The trolleys have a value of $740,000 with an additional $105,000 for support equipment and training.
“Edinburg is committed to introducing electric trolleys in the downtown area, since this invitation supports Edinburg’s City Council’s vision for an Inner-City trolley bus service designed to increase prosperity for downtown restaurants and other businesses,” said Edinburg Assistant City Manager Sonia Marroquín. She added that the program would also ease congestion and encourage other modes of transportation.
Last February, Councilmember Gilbert Enríquez raised the possibility of the downtown trolley bus service. His vision was to provide those who gather daily at the Hidalgo County Courthouse with a fixed route. This route could conveniently and affordably transport them back and forth to dozens of nearby businesses.
“There are a lot of people who work in the courthouse who don’t want to go to the parking lot, get their cars, then try to find parking where the restaurants are located, where they probably won’t find parking, and they can’t do all that within their lunch hour,” Enríquez said. “One of the things I think would be beneficial would be to have some type of bus trolley system just for the downtown area. Since we are soon going to open the Edinburg Transit Terminal nearby, could Valley Metro help our downtown residents and businesses?”
Valley Metro, which is part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, provides public bus transportation in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Zapata counties, linking the major cities, as well as The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campuses throughout the Valley.
The Edinburg Transit Terminal is tentatively scheduled to open later this summer or early this fall at 617 W. University Drive. Its location will also serve as a home for Valley Metro.