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Rio Grande Valley @ LoneStarRoads

The Rio Grande Valley is the southernmost part of the continental United States. The area is primarily agricultural, with three major cities that grew from agricultural roots.

The valley was first irrigated in 1898, and after introduction of the railroad in 1904, grew rapidly as the soils and weather conditions were suited for winter farming, similar to the Imperial Valley in California. Due to the close proximity to Mexico, the area is overwhelmingly Hispanic.

The three major cities in the Rio Grande Valley are Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen. Brownsville was founded in 1849 and holds the Valley’s only deepwater port. Brownsville has historically been a center for trade between the USA and Mexico, but also serves as an industrial center today. Harlingen, incorporated in 1910, benefits from its central location at the junction of US 77 and US 83. McAllen, founded on the site of the McAllen ranch, was incorporated in 1911 and serves as a agricultural and oil center.

The Rio Grande valley is the largest area in Texas without a connection to the Interstate Highway System. The Interstate 69 project, part of High Priority Corridor 18 and 20, will serve all three major valley cities. Two branches of IH-69 will travel to the Valley, roughly paralleling US 77 from Corpus Christi and US 281 from George West. The final route of IH-69 is currently under study, with funding for the project a major concern as there is no public money available for construction. TxDOT is studying the feasibility of constructing IH-69 as a toll road.

Photographs:

Southbound (Kingsville to Harlingen)
Southbound (Harlingen to Brownsville)

US 77

US 77 enters the Valley from the north, and travels to Harlingen, where it meets US 83. US 77 is then multiplexed with US 83 between Harlingen and Brownsville to reach the Mexican Border. The road was extended south from Corpus Christi to Harlingen in 1945.

The US 77 bypass of Harlingen was completed in 1968, followed by the Raymondsville bypass in 1969 and the Sebastian bypass in 1974. This new alignment was converted to freeway between 1979 and 1981. A bypass of Brownsville was constructed in 1966.

There are two business loops on US 77 – BU 77-X in Harlingen, and BU 77-W in Raymondsville and Sebastian. In Harlingen, there is an even older alignment of US 77, Commerce Street, that is not part of the state highway system.

Photographs:

Southbound (Harlingen to Brownsville)

US 83

US 83 is the “Main Street” of the Valley. The road enters the Valley at Rio Grande City and travels east through Mission, McAllen to Harlingen, where it meets US 77. US 83 is then multiplexed with US 77 to Brownsville and the Mexican Border.

US 83 was part of the original Texas highway system to McAllen, and was extended from McAllen to Brownsville over former US 96 in the 1939 realignment of the highway system.

The original alignment of US 83 was bypassed by a new alignment between Mission and Weslaco in 1963, and between Weslaco and Harlingen in 1966. This section was converted to a freeway in 1971-72, along with the section between US 77 and BU 77-Z. The remainder of the road to Brownsville was converted to freeway between 1984-85.

BU 83-S is the one business loop on US 83 in the Rio Grande Valley. The section of BU 83-S between Mission and Weslaco was designated in 1963, followed by extension to Harlingen in 1966. The business loop was extended 5.5 miles west of Mission in 1967, and extended to Palmview in 1987 upon completion of the Palmview bypass.

In 1997, US 83 was extended to the Los Tomates International Bridge Crossing. This short extension was converted to freeway in 2004.

US 281

US 281 parallels US 77 into the Valley from the north. US 281 drops south from Falfurrias to McAllen, then parallels US 83 to Brownsville, where it terminates at BU 77-Z. Former US 96 was renumbered US 281 to McAllen in 1939, while US 281 replaced portions of SH 4 during that highway realignment.

US 281 was converted to a freeway in Edinburg beginning in 1980, with the completion of the Edinburg bypass. This bypassed section of former US 281 is now BU 281-W.

There is a short spur of US 281 in Hidalgo to serve the international border crossing.


Photographs

Boca Chica Road

SH 4 was designated as part of the 1939 highway restructuring between Brownsville and Boca Chica. In 1997, a short section of former US 77/83 from the Gateway International Bridge to the new alignment of US 77/83 was added to the highway


Photographs

SH 48

SH 48 is a connection between BU 77-Z and US 281 in Brownsville, and SH 100. SH 48 is used as a shorter access route from Brownsville to South Padre Island.

SH 100

SH 100 connects US 83 in xxx to the Laguna Madre Causeway, and South Padre Island. The highway is the only access to the island, which connects to P100 on the island itself. SH 100 was designated in 1939, and P100 was added to the state highway system in 1968.

SH 107

SH 107 paralells US 83 on the northern reaches of the valley. SH 107 begins at US 77 in Combes, and travels west, then south to meet US 83. SH 107 was part of the 1939 state highway system restructuring.

SH 336

SH 336 travels from SH 107 west of Edinburg, through McAllen, to meet US 281 at Hidalgo. This road was added to the state highway system in 1939.

SH 345

SH 345 connects San Benito to FM 106. SH 345 was added to the state highway system in 1942, and extended in 1945.

 

Loop 499

SL 499 is a loop around Harlingen, offering easy access to the Valley International Airport in Harlingen. The loop was designated in 1971, with construction beginning in 1973. The original designation went from US 77 to BU 77-Z on the southeast side of Harlingen – the road was extended to US 77/83 in 1979 over a section of FM 801.

Page Updated August 29, 2006.