City officials stressed options available to Brownsville on Thursday evening during the city’s second town hall-style meeting regarding the West Brownsville Rail Corridor.
The West Brownsville Rail Corridor Public Discussion Series Town Hall 2.0 meeting, themed “Discovery,” was the second of four meetings the city has planned.
Members of the community gathered for the 6 p.m. meeting at the BrownsvilleEventsCenter. The previously meeting was held at Oliveira Park Gymnasium, but city spokeswoman Roxanna Rosas said the venue was changed for Thursday’s meeting to accommodate a larger capacity of people.
The purpose of the discussion series is to gather community opinions of what Brownsville should do with the deserted West Rail railway corridor, which was used by the Union-Pacific trains until August 2015. When the railway was rerouted north due to traffic concerns, the project left behind a 9-mile, 100-foot-wide vacant path.
The corridor spans from Olmito to the Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge, and it is under the full jurisdiction of CameronCounty.
Many community members have suggested that the land be used to provide a car-free, hiking and biking path.
During the Town Hall 2.0 meeting, city planners listed what other communities — nationally and internationally — have done with similar spaces when given the opportunity to “redesign rail, freeway or road corridors.” The presentation showed examples of creating open space, hike and bike trails, roads and boulevards.
Rosas said this was to introduce notions that perhaps community members haven’t previously thought about.
Regardless of what city officials decide, the county has ultimate control as it holds the deed to the property.
Cameron County Commissioner for Precinct 2 Alex Dominguez attended the meeting. He felt it was important to attend, given that the right-of-way is owned by CameronCounty.
Dominguez said the county worked to remove the railway in order to improve the quality of life in Brownsville.
“To remove the rumor or myth that the county is not interested in a hike and bike trail, we would like to state that we were actually the ones that negotiated with Union Pacific to even allow for the possibility of a hike and bike trail,” Dominguez said. “We were the sole entity that did these negotiations so that we could improve the quality of life in Brownsville. The county is the one that sponsored and pretty much did the entire project to remove the rail line. I think that shows we’re committed to helping the people of Brownsville.”
A public comments session ended the event’s gathering.
City officials who were in attendance at the meeting included Mayor Tony Martinez and city Commissioners Rose Gowen, César de León, and John Villarreal.