Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Mayors stretch hands across the border.

Byline: Diane Velasco Journal Staff Writer

* A proposal from Las Cruces, El Paso and Ciudad Jurez aims at sharing utilities development

The mayors of neighboring cities in New Mexico, Texas and Mexico are asking the U.S. Department of Energy to help deliver much-needed technology, telecommunications, electricity and water to the border area.

Dubbed the Utility Corridor Program, the initiative could bring unprecedented economic development for southern New Mexico and the Las Cruces/El Paso/Ciudad Juarez region.

The Ciudad Juarez, El Paso and Las Cruces mayors are seeking approvals and funds for $500 million in utility projects.

For the various approvals needed, they hope to work with the DOE, sidestepping dozens of U.S. and Mexican federal bureaucracies in the area. The DOE has also agreed to help determine which federal and local agencies could be funding sources.

But one DOE official says it will be an "uphill battle." In addition, the mayors' staggered terms in office give just a one-year "window of opportunity," Las Cruces Mayor Ruben Smith says.

Smith, El Paso Mayor Carlos Ramirez and Ciudad Juarez Mayor Gustavo Elizondo have been working on the concept for about a year.

"A utility corridor represents the opportunity of a lifetime so we can have a sustainable economic development," said Ciudad Juarez communications director Javier de Anda. …

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