More than $25 million in state funding will be invested into Cameron County roads, but the projects aren’t only aimed to improve the lives of traveling humans.
Special crossings for ocelots are included in the county’s plans to rebuild FM 106, or General Brant Road, from Paredes Line Road to FM 510, a $15.5 million project that will run through Commissioner David A. Garza’s precinct.
A second project, also included in Precinct 3, will realign FM 803 between the expressway and State Highway 100, creating a faster route from the Rancho Viejo area to Port Isabel and South Padre Island.
Rebuilding General Brant Road has been a goal of Garza’s since he joined the commission, he said, explaining that when state maintenance on the road lapsed, the county was ill-equipped to keep it up.
Other factors making that road a challenging project is its location within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
“That road was a little bit more complicated,” Garza said. “We had to work with the refuge in making sure we protected the environment, and it was a challenge to bring in the different governmental agencies.”
The $15 million wasn’t the problem, Garza said, adding that it was arranging for the mitigation because the county would need to purchase right-of-way from the Refuge that had to be replaced at triple the rate through expansion of the refuge elsewhere.
What finally gave the project the green light were the cat crossings that will be built beneath the road at locations the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have identified as highly trafficked areas for ocelots, a predatory cat that is endangered in the United States.