DALLAS — El Paso County, Texas, will dedicate $27 million of proceeds from $110 million of certificates of obligation to complete a bridge project across the Rio Grande into Mexico.
County commissioners authorized the new debt Monday. Voter approval is not required for the certificates, which will be supported with property tax revenues.
A request for underwriters will go out this week. The schedule adopted by the county calls for pricing on June 12.
El Paso County’s $148 million of outstanding general obligation debt is rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.
The county of 800,000 residents in far west Texas has an assessed property tax base of $42 billion and includes El Paso, the sixth-largest city in the state, and Fort Bliss.
County Judge Veronica Escobar said the $27 million will finance a bridge and roads to complete the Tornillo-Guadalupe port of entry.
She said the new border port will alleviate border-crossing congestion and stimulate development in the area.
Escobar said proceeds also will fund a number of repair and replacement projects, including $38 million of upgrades to a jail annex, $8.5 million for courthouse maintenance and improvements, $3.5 million for new county sheriff patrol cars and prisoner transportation vans, and $9 million for information technology upgrades.
“The county deferred maintenance and investment for quite some time,” the judge said. “Past issuances have not dealt with our most pressing needs. Our assets are in need of repair.”
Mark Valenzuela of George K. Baum & Co., the county’s new financial advisor, told the commissioners that support for the certificates would require a property tax increase of $23.57 a year on a residence assessed at $100,000.
The port of entry will be one of the largest on the U.S.-Mexico border. A six-lane toll bridge capable of carrying large trucks will span the river, and roads will connect it to Interstate 10. The port will include a customs facility.
The port, which is to be opened by late 2012 at a total cost of $92 million for the U.S. portion, will replace the two-lane Fabens-Caseta wooden bridge, which cannot accommodate commercial traffic. Work is under way on the project at Tornillo on the Texas side of the border, but not yet at Guadalupe on the Mexican side.
Local and federal authorities in both countries must sign on a memorandum of understanding before Mexico’s transportation secretariat can begin construction. A draft agreement developed by El Paso County officials that includes target dates is under consideration.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a diplomatic note in summer 2011 that stipulated the country would complete its portion of the span by December 2012.