Texas’ first state-funded border wall section ‘essentially complete’

Dive Brief:

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continues to make good on his pledge to build a section of wall between the border of his state and Mexico. Texas Facilities Commission Executive Director Mike Novak told TFC commissioners on Thursday that the 1.7-mile segment in Starr County was “essentially complete,” with all panels installed.
  • Novak said that some work, such as electrical outfitting and building access roads, is still outstanding. This section is one of five that the TFC is working on simultaneously; the other four parts are still in the RFQ and planning phases. The full budget for the program is $900 million, said TFC spokesperson Francoise Luca.
  • The wall panels came from a surplus stockpile of federal government materials. The state, when it acquired the panels, didn’t have to explain to the federal government what they would be used for, according to the Texas Tribune.

Dive Insight:

Novak told commissioners that the project is progressing as planned, despite challenges like navigating the land acquisition process across the state. Novak also praised his department’s transparency on the project, saying they “crossed every T and dotted every I.”

“We’ve done it by the book,” Novak told commissioners.

The project overall is being managed by the joint venture of Dallas-based engineering firm Huitt-Zollars and Pittsburgh-based engineering firm Michael Baker International, with the awarded contract capped at $11 million. 

In addition, Farmingdale, New York-based Posillico Civil Inc. was tapped on a design-build contract that is not to exceed $162 million for the construction of the wall, the TFC said in November on its wall tracking website. While Novak didn’t make any determinations about cost during the hearing, the TFC is continuing to monitor the total price tag as the project goes on, he said.

The remainint four sections of the wall are still in the planning and RFQ phase. Each project will be design-build, with the next section capped at $185 million, according to the RFQ, and subsequent projects have a total of $515 million for the remaining three sections.

On top of legislated $250 million, state-sanctioned crowdfunding has raised over $55 million in donations — $54 million of which has come from Wyoming-based banking heir Timothy Mellon, according to the Texas Tribune. The wall is also benefiting from $750 million in a nearly $2 billion state funding bill which aims to protect border security in Texas overall.

Abbott, who is up for reelection in November, praised his administration’s efforts to build a wall at a December press conference and cited what he called a failure by President Joe Biden and the federal government to adequately police the southern border. Biden canceled the border wall project on his first day in office. 

Abbott called the first wall project a “major milestone” in protecting the community from drug smuggling and illegal immigration during the December press conference.

The Texas government has been calling attention to a lack of border security with high-profile measures dating back to 2005 under former former Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican. A ProPublica report detailed the border operations that each governor has taken in an effort to stop human traffickers, drug smugglers and the terrorist group Al Qaeda.

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