Faster, Safer Island Route Opening Soon

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Looking for a faster and safer way to travel to Port Isabel and South Padre Island? Starting in mid-December, a new portion of SH 550 will open along the northeast side of Brownsville to the port entrance thus allowing drivers to bypass many traffic intersections and a railroad crossing. It is the latest of several legs that are projected to open during the next 18 months that will connect the Port of Brownsville to Interstate 69 and US 77/US 83. The new route will not only allow drivers a faster way around the northeast side of town, but will also help alleviate traffic congestion within that area’s residential areas.

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“It’s a good tool depending on their destination and how safely and quickly (drivers) want to get to their destination,” said Pete Sepulveda, executive director of the Cameron Country Regional Mobility Authority (CCRMA). “By mid-December we’ll have this phase open for traffic and it’ll be a big improvement on our existing route—especially if the Laguna Madre Island area or the port is the destination. It is a much safer and quicker route to get to the island.”

Drivers will still have the ability to travel through the residential areas toward the port, but the CCRMA has already seen good use of the portion that is already open. It is expected there will be a big jump in use once the next phase is complete in December.

Eventually, this 10-mile stretch of limited-access toll roads will also offer the Port of Brownsville expanding business opportunities. The port’s new, north-side entrance will have a direct connection to Interstate 69 and allow commercial trucks to have efficient interstate access from the Port of Brownsville.

“The importance for the port to have an interstate highway leading to the port is huge,” Sepulveda said. “This gives businesses an option and avenue to get their loads from point A to point B a lot quicker and increase their just-in-time deliveries.”

SH550 not only allows the Port of Brownsville to attract more business by offering a quicker route; it also allows the port to more advantageously develop industrial parks along its three-mile stretch of toll road. “It’ll take five to seven years to see the area grow . . . but along the entire 10-mile stretch there will be development on both sides and that will provide local jobs.” Sepulveda said. “The majority of the land is open, so it’ll develop into industrial parks and retail developments, and it’ll offer secondary access to Padre Island.”