74ºF

Trump administration awards $180 million for border barrier in Rio Grande Valley

A portion of the bollard-style border fence along the Rio Grande in South Texas. Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

The Trump administration on Monday announced a $180 million contract for construction of border barriers in the Rio Grande Valley, the latest step toward partially fulfilling one the president’s signature promises.

The contract was awarded to Southwest Valley Constructors Co. for 15 miles of barrier in Starr County. The barriers will connect with other recent projects in the cities of Roma, Rio Grande City, Escobares, La Grulla and Salineño, according to a news release.

“This project will include a 30 foot tall steel bollard wall, all-weather roads, lighting, enforcement cameras, and other related technology to create a complete enforcement zone," the statement says. “Construction is anticipated to begin in 2020, pending availability of real estate, in locations where no barriers currently exist.”

Although border apprehensions have dipped significantly since last summer, the Rio Grande Valley continues to be the busiest Border Patrol sector for unauthorized crossings and drug seizures, according to Customs and Border Protection statistics.

Monday’s announcement is the latest in a year that’s already seen the Trump administration fast-track border barrier construction as the November election approaches. In late January, the Webb County Commissioners Court granted CBP officials access to 15 acres in the southern tip of that county, which includes the port city of Laredo, to survey land for possible construction.

But the administration is still facing challenges from local governments and landowners opposed to any sort of barrier. The City of Laredo said last month it would not allow CBP access to city-owned property and would go to court to halt wall construction, if necessary. And last week Zapata County, which borders Webb to the southeast, voted to deny the federal government access to its property.

Several individual landowners are also involved in litigation, which could slow down construction of additional barriers along the border.