Texan and Mexican border cities are often interconnected – for example, Brownsville and its sister city of Matamoros are seen as one binational urban area.
Thousands of people commute each day between the two cities for work and school, including Mauricio Ibarra. He’s the planning director for the city of Matamoros and he has an idea for making the two cities feel even more connected: an international recreational and bike trail surrounded by museums, schools, and parks on each side of the border. It would run along a now unused portion of railroad tracks, complete with a bridge connecting the two sides of the border.
Ibarra says the first stage of the project will be built by next year, but the whole plan will take five to seven years to complete.
On the Brownsville side, there is already a park around the railroad tracks. Ibarra says he’d like to see the same happen on the Matamoros side. He’d like the trail to focus mainly on bicycles as a mode of transportation.
“We’re looking to work [the bridge] into the first non-motorized mobility,” he says. “Both Mexico and the U.S. are looking for another opportunity to work in mobility – alternative mobility. So we saw this opportunity and we’re going for it.”
Between 25 and 35 percent of Matamoros income is spent on public transportation, so the idea is to bring those numbers down. Citizens can then spend money on their more basic needs. Using bicycles as a mode of transportation will also improve people’s health, Ibarra says.
The trail has other benefits as well.
“Whenever the community takes back public spaces, you see a very significant reduction in crime,” Ibarra says. “Instead of all of us hiding in our houses and only being outside for our jobs … we need to take back the city. We need to take back the streets, the parks. That way you could make this a safer place.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.