Brownsville mayor tapped as MPO policy board’s vice chair

dfwnewsa | November 3, 2023 | 0 | East Texas News , South Texas News

John Cowen Jr.

Brownsville Mayor John Cowen Jr. has been named vice chairman of the policy board of the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, the federally mandated body overseeing municipal transportation planning in Cameron and Hidalgo counties.


Cowen was named to the position at the MPO’s Oct. 25 board meeting, with Hidalgo County Commissioner for Precinct 1 David Fuentes, coming in as chairman to succeed Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. in that role. Cowen, who joined the MPO board after being sworn in as mayor in May, will transition to MPO chairman after two years.

The RGV MPO was formed by the 2019 merger of the Brownsville, Harlingen-San Benito, and Hidalgo County MPOs. The policy board is made up of representatives from the cities of Brownsville, Harlingen, San Benito, McAllen, Edinburg, Mission and Pharr; Cameron and Hidalgo counties; Cameron and Hidalgo Regional Mobility Authorities, Valley Metro and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Cowen said he’s honored to serve as vice chairman, a position that “offers a unique opportunity to make a lasting impact on our region’s transportation infrastructure.” He added that he’s committed to collaborating with the MPO’s partners to “tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities ahead, driving progress and prosperity for all our communities.”

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“I think it’s a great opportunity to advocate for more transportation funding and to make sure that we’re being as aggressive as possible in moving the projects forward for our region,” Cowen said. “Infrastructure and connectivity is crucial when it comes to taking advantage of all this growth that’s happening.”

He said the state has ramped up pressure on the MPO “to get projects done and deploy the capital that has been allocated to our MPO.”

“I think our (Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority) is doing a good job to advance a lot of the projects that we’ve identified as important, and we’re just going to keep pushing these projects at the MPO level,” Cowen said.

One such project is the East Loop, which will connect the Port of Brownsville with Veterans Bridge at Los Tomates via the completed South Port Connector at State Highway 4 and what is now East University Boulevard at I-69E just north of Veterans Bridge. The design phase for that project is nearly complete, Cowen noted.


“That will likely be in line for funding at the next round,” he said. “I think the future’s bright for Brownsville and for Cameron County. For the MPO as a whole, I think we’re in great shape.”

The 2019 merger of the three MPOs was a good idea, making the Valley’s MPO the fifth largest in the state, Cowen said.

“It allowed us to access more funding as a whole,” he said. “I think that is a huge benefit. The mentality has shifted from thinking locally to thinking regionally and acting regionally. I think we’re much stronger together. You see that at the MPO level. You see that when it comes to the South Texas Mayors’ Alliance that we formed, which is meeting Monday in San Antonio. There’s a lot more collaboration across the board, so I think it’s a very positive step in the right direction.”

With the departure of Andrew Canon as executive director of the RGV MPO, the search is on for a worthy successor, Cowen said, adding that Canon “helped move the region forward” in terms of bringing in more money for transportation infrastructure and will be greatly missed.

“He took a new role in (the Texas Department of Transportation) having to do with border transportation infrastructure, but he’ll still be relevant in terms of our interaction with him,” he said. “He’ll be a great resource for us. Now it’s an important time for the MPO to go and find a highly qualified person to take that role. We have a lot of work to do the next couple of months to get that going.”

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