Border leaders pitch transportation, water needs to White House infrastructure ‘czar’

Border Report Tour

Leaders hope show of unity, border’s contribution to Texas and U.S. economy will get petitions to “the front of the line”

Dusk falls on November 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso’s federal, state and local representatives on Tuesday outlined the region’s infrastructure needs to a senior White House adviser.

Texas State Rep. Cesar Blando, D-El Paso

The officials hope the one-hour presentation and the show of unity will help El Paso “get to the front of the line” when the federal government decides how to allocate money from the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure act.

“Today’s conversation with Mayor Landrieu and White House staff is a big win for El Paso,” said state Sen. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso. “We’re able to raise awareness to the important role El Paso plays in the overall economic development of Texas and the United States.”

President Joe Biden has tapped former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as his point man in overseeing the spending. The El Paso delegation on Tuesday pitched projects related to improvements in transportation, water and wastewater, ports of entry and broadband access. The leaders also “snuck in” pitches for upgrading the control tower at El Paso International Airport and some “quality of life” issues such as a proposed deck park Downtown, said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.

U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso

She said Texas stands to get $35 billion in new spending over the next five years from the infrastructure bill. Much of that will be allocated to the state and come to El Paso through formula funding, but as much as 50% of the infrastructure bill’s funds will be up for grabs in the form of grants, she said.

Both Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Ricardo Samaniego highlighted how the perception of unity can give El Paso an edge in getting those funds.

“I’m very impressed that this collaboration means a lot to people trying to work with us,” Samaniego said. “There’s nothing worse than people being fragmented and going in different directions. This is not improvised, not last minute. We’ve been working on these things” for many years.

Municipal Planning Organization Director Eduardo Calvo noted that competition for infrastructure grants at the national levels “is going to be brutal,” so the show of unity was important.

“What is crucial in order to be successful is to have the support of all local stakeholders and have the contact that we initiated today with Mayor Landrieu,” he said. “Community support and consensus is going to be crucial. Also, we must prepare solid cooperative applications for these grant programs. Today’s meeting was an amazing step toward that goal.”

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