Downtown Brownsville to get overdue upgrade to water infrastructure

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The city of Brownsville and Brownsville Public Utilities Board held a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday to mark the start of a major infrastructure project aimed at improving water and wastewater services downtown.

The event took place at the city’s new Communications and Marketing Complex at 1312 E. Adams St. Funded by $14.5 million in grants allocated to the city through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which was signed into law by Joe Biden in 2021, the project will modernize essential utilities downtown that are long overdue for an upgrade.

The “ARPA Downtown Water/Wastewater Improvements Project” is made up of two main projects involving the replacement of approximately 4,000 linear feet of water line and 14,000 linear feet of wastewater line — some of which were installed as long ago as the 1920s.

The city of Brownsville announced a major project to upgrade downtown infrastructure on Friday, May 24, 2024. (Courtesy: City of Brownsville/Facebook)

Project 1 will tackle wastewater line improvements along a number of downtown alleyways, including East Elizabeth Street to International Boulevard, and East Levee Street to East 10th Street. That project should be finished by the end of this year, according to the city.

Project 2 will involve water line improvements from East Washington Street to East Adams Street and several adjacent, with completion anticipated in summer 2025.

The need for rebuilding downtown’s water and wastewater infrastructure has become especially acute in recent years with the rapidly growing number of old, neglected properties being restored, repurposed and put back into commerce, according to city officials.

Brownsville Mayor John Cowen Jr. called the projects “not just an upgrade … (but) a transformation.”

“By enhancing our water and wastewater infrastructure, we are improving service reliability and capacity for our current businesses, while laying the groundwork for future development in downtown Brownsville,” he said.

City Manager Helen Ramirez said the importance of the upgrades “cannot be overstated.”

“Investing in our infrastructure is essential for advancing the overall quality of life in Brownsville,” she said. “These improvements will help us achieve our goal of creating a more livable and attractive city for everyone, whether they are lifelong residents or new businesses looking to call Brownsville home.”

Some downtown residents and businesses will experience restrictions to alleyways during construction, though every effort will be made to minimize disruptions, according to the city.

“The project promises to significantly improve water pressure and capacity, ensuring robust support for the city’s growth and sustainability,” the city said.

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