by Anna Giaritelli, Homeland Security Reporter | | September 13, 2021 06:00 AM
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas may award a massive contract to begin building a barrier that stretches along more than 700 miles of the state’s border with Mexico as early as this week, according to the office overseeing the project.
The Texas Facilities Commission, which oversees state contracts, said in a statement it anticipates awarding the border wall project with more than $1 billion in available funding by mid-September.
The commission selected engineering firm Michael Baker International of Pennsylvania and design firm Huitt-Zollars of Dallas to team up on the project. The commissioners must vote on the decision before the contract for a program manager can be awarded, and the final monetary amount has not yet been determined. The program manager will handle the budget and determine where to build.
Four total companies expressed interest in the contract.
Both firms have helped with hundreds of miles of completed border wall projects under previous presidential administrations. This is the first time a state has opted to install a barrier at an international border, as it is typically considered the federal government’s responsibility.
Rep. Greg Bonnen, a Republican who represents a Houston suburb, introduced a bill that passed the state Legislature in August to fund Gov. Greg Abbott’s proposals to deter illegal immigration. More than half of the $1.8 billion bill goes toward the border wall and fencing. A Washington Examiner analysis of existing border wall projects revealed just 150 miles of the 1,250 miles of land Texas shares with Mexico have a substantive barrier, leaving the state responsible for roughly 1,100 miles of fencing.
The state has identified 733 miles of border-front land where it can build, and the Texas National Guard will carry out the project. All of the land belongs to residents who agreed to let the state put up a barrier, which will allow Texas to avoid the lawsuits that held up the Trump administration’s efforts to seize private land for construction.
At present, one engineer battalion is handling the construction of a temporary, 8-foot-tall barbed wire fence. The bill includes $301 million for an additional 1,800 National Guard soldiers, including 11 more battalions to install fencing that will eventually be replaced by a more solid barrier.
The governor is also crowdfunding donations and has raised $54 million to date.