TX Recommends Contractors for Border Wall
At the beginning of the month, the Texas Facilities Commission announced that they had completed the valuation phase for the Program Manager for the Border Wall.
In reviewing the competing contractors for the project, the Commission stated that they would be recommending the joint venture of Dallas engineering firm Huitt-Zollars and Pittsburgh-based engineering firm Michael Baker International.
According to the Washington Examiner, both companies have experience in building hundreds of miles of border wall projects under previous presidential administrations. Four total companies had expressed interest in the contract.
Pushing to Build
Starting back in March, Republican Texas House Rep. Bryan Slaton presented new legislation regarding the relaunch of construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall and other border security enhancement projects within the state.
The House Bill No. 2862 claims that it would create a fund to pay for the projects—including planning, designing, constructing and maintaining transportation and water infrastructure along the Texas portion of the border wall—and would allocate the earnings on the balance of the fund and reimbursement of related expenditures.
H.B. 2862 also intends to pay for technology and commercial vehicle inspection facilities along ports of entry and prohibits the clearing of indigenous plants, unless overridden by certain state or federal authorities.
According to the legislation, contractors incorporated in Texas or who maintain its headquarters or principal office within the state would be given priority in awarding contracts. In addition, the proposed bill stipulates that the governor of Texas would seek reimbursement from the federal government for amounts spent from border wall project funds.
In May, Congressman Clay Higgins, a republican from Louisiana and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, became the second lawmaker to introduce legislation for restarting construction of the border wall system.
At the time of its introduction, the Finish the Wall Act reportedly had more than 60 cosponsors and is one of the House Republicans’ five pillars to address what they deem the Biden border crisis. According to a report by Bloomberg, in April, roughly 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border—more than the nation has seen in two decades.
From 2018-21, Congress was reported to have allocated $1.4 billion for wall projects, including repair and replacement. It wouldn’t be until June when Abbott would publicly announce his vow to expand the wall along Texas with Mexico and increase the arrests of migrants trying to enter the country.
At the time of the announcement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott stated that the upcoming initiatives included more than $1 billion in funding, already approved by the new state budget for border security. In addition, the creation of a task force on border security was also in the works, as well as intentions to sign an interstate compact with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey that would call on states to assist in arrests by sending resources such as drones and helicopters.
In a report on the border’s illegal crossings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection data revealed a new 20-year high, with American authorities intercepting 180,034 migrants along the Mexico border that same month.
Later that month, Abbott was joined by Joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and more than two dozen Texas lawmakers, in signing off on the authorization of several actions to address illegal immigration—including the state-led border wall project—and aid overwhelmed border law enforcement.
With his $250 million down payment in place and plans in the works, Abbott also authorized state officials to begin the search for a program manager for the border wall, opened a donation portal for the project and called on landowners willing to volunteer their properties for construction. In addition, Abbott also sent a letter to Biden requesting that all land taken by the federal government for border wall construction under Trump be returned to landowners.
By the end of May, Abbott issued a disaster declaration regarding the immigration crisis, which he plans to use to fund and construct the project. In addition, the project plans to receive funding through a crowdfunding campaign that asks citizens to donate.
In the week that it was announced, the campaign raised $459,000 within the first week. Since then, the state fundraising campaign has reportedly raised about $936,000 in private donations.
As a result of Abbott’s efforts to secure the border, the TFC officially announced that it was seeking a project manager for the proposed border wall project in July. That month, the TFC was reported to be accessing the resource requirements to fulfill the project mandate and gathering information from partners across several state agencies to develop the scope of the request for proposal.
By the middle of the month, TFC staff had begun to perform extensive research and due diligence to define the scope of the anticipated RFP for a program manager. A technical consultant was also assisting with the development of the RFP to further expedite the process.
In August, the Texas Department of Transportation announced that it was set to pay nearly $25 million for the construction of a roughly two-mile-long concrete border barrier. Slated to be constructed in Eagle Pass, the project is also calling for a temporary fence near the right-of-way along State Loop 480, which the Department of Public Safety has reported to be a high-traffic area for immigration.
The Texas Tribune reported that the fence will cost the state $280,000, while the rest of the $25 million will be used to clear vegetation and construct the concrete barrier.
If costs remain consistent with the Eagle Pass barrier for TxDOT, it has been suggested that the total $250 million allotted for the border wall could build about 20 miles. However, the state of Texas is reported to have about 1,000 miles along its border where no barrier has been constructed.
The TFC recently announced the recommendation of JV Huitt-Zollars and Michael Baker International for the project manager role on the proposed Texas border wall.
As noted in the Generic Procurement Timeline posted to TFC’s website at the end of July, the Commission planned to announce a contract award approval sometime in August.
Currently, the TFC reports that the scope of the project is to complete as much of the project in as short a time as possible, across state and private land.
“In response to the Governor's directive, TFC introduces a strategic initiative in 2021 to construct TBW [Texas Border Wall] segments on state owned, local government owned, and privately owned property from El Paso to the Gulf Coast. The initiative contemplates sequencing multiple phases of development of the unsecured border over multiple years, with a goal to complete as much of the wall as possible in the shortest timeframe,” read the RFP posted by TFC.