HARLINGEN — The Port of Harlingen has begun preliminary work on five projects funded with state transportation grants.

The funding, from the Rider 38 Grant Program, consists of $5.3 million from the Texas Department of Transportation for transportation improvement and service expansion.

Along with port matching funds, the $6.8 million in total funding will create more truck queuing areas along Port Road and Cemetery Road. A portion will also function as a breakbulk cargo laydown yard, and road expansion and refortification on Port and Robles roads.

“These projects not only bring us to some milestones on our master plan, but also opens the door to more opportunities in diversifying cargo and the Port’s ability to handle the inevitable increase in truck traffic,” said Alan Johnson, chair of the port’s board.

The most recent round of funding provided by the Texas Legislature was approved by the Texas Transportation Commission on May 28 and totaled $40 million for select port projects.

The past three sessions have included budget riders in the General Appropriations Act that authorizes the use of $100 million for projects to improve access to maritime ports. These funds come from the Texas Mobility Fund and other sources.

The Port of Harlingen previously received $7.8 million through the Rider 45 Grant in 2017 that funded rebuilding and resurfacing of Port and Cemetery roads, as well as the expansion of the intersection of Port and FM 106 to enhance traffic safety.

“Since 2017, the Port has seen a 43 percent increase in tonnage due in large part to the increase in petroleum coming in and out of the port,” Port Director Walker Smith said.

“This not only means an increase in barge traffic but also trucks used for export. We would not have been able to handle the rate of growth we have without essential maintenance and upgrades to our roads.”

The latest projects are projected to be completed sometime in early 2022.