Rio Grande Valley, Texas

The Grande Valley Region (RGV), also called the Lower Rio Grande Valley, is an urbanized region in the U.S. state of Texas. It is an urban area in South Texas, along the Rio Grande that forms the border with Mexico. The urban area consists of 4 counties that together have 1,390,000 inhabitants (2021).


City Population
Brownsville 188.000
McAllen 144.000
Edinburg 102.000
Mission 86.000
Pharr 80.000
Harlingen 72.000

According to itypemba, the Rio Grande Valley is not actually a valley, it has traditionally been synonymous with the floodplains of the Rio Grande. Due to irrigation upstream, the water discharge from the Rio Grande is often limited. The river forms the border with Mexico. The term Rio Grande Valley is generally used to refer only to the American portion of the urban area. This consists of Starr County, Hidalgo County, Cameron County, and Willacy County. On the Mexican side is the state of Tamaulipas with the major cities of Reynosa and Matamoros.

The cities of the Rio Grande Valley lie inland, some distance from the Gulf of Mexico, although the coast is not far away. The primary cities in this part of Texas are Brownsville, Harlingen, McAllen, and Pharr. Hidalgo County has the largest population and is also the fastest growing.

The Rio Grande Valley region has been growing rapidly, especially since the 1970s. This is mainly a result of (illegal) immigration from Latin America. In some counties and localities, more than 90% of the population is Hispanic. The Rio Grande Valley is the poorest, low-income part of the United States. The median household income is about half that of the rest of Texas. By contrast, the cost of living is also the lowest in Texas. The growth is mainly taking place in rural areas, the cities themselves do not grow that fast.

Road network


Traditionally, the region has had three freeways, US 77, US 83, and US 281. Typically, the Rio Grande Valley is not connected to the rest of the American highway network by highway. US 77 and US 281 run parallel to each other to Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

The US Highways have been numbered as Interstate Highways since 2013. US 83 is numbered Interstate 2, which is the primary link between the cities of the Rio Grande Valley. Interstate 69E runs via US 77. Although US 77 and US 83 between Harlingen and Brownsville are double-numbered, this part is only numbered as I-69E. Interstate 69C has also been assigned to US 281 in Pharr. This was the first Interstate Highway to have a ‘C’ suffix.

FM 396 is a short freeway between Mission and the Mexican border west of Reynosa.

There are two major nodes in the Rio Grande Valley, of course constructed as a stack. This is the interchange between I-2 and I-69C in Pharr and the interchange between I-2 and I-69E in Harlingen. The interchange between I-69E and SH 550 north of Brownsville is only a fork.

Toll roads

The highways of the Rio Grande Valley are generally toll-free, however State Highway 550 (I-169) around Brownsville is a toll road. An Interstate number was assigned for this in 2015. SH 550 connects I-69E to the deep sea port of Brownsville. In addition, tolls must be paid on the bridges to Mexico.

In the west of the region is a regional mobility authority, the HCRMA. In the east it concerns the CCRMA.

Border crossings

There is no direct highway border crossing between Texas and Mexico. The main border crossings are US 77 – CF-101 in Brownsville and US 281- CF – 40 in McAllen.

In addition, there are various secondary border crossings, or border crossings only for freight traffic. The density of border crossings in the Rio Grande Valley is the highest on the entire US-Mexico border.


A network of new toll roads is planned in the Rio Grande Valley. The most important are SH 68 and SH 365. Also, the South Padre Island 2nd Access is planned as a 12-kilometer long bridge, the longest in Texas.

Traffic intensities

The highways of the Rio Grande Valley are intensively used. The busiest point is I-2 in McAllen with 146,000 vehicles per day in 2012. The I-2 largely has more than 100,000 vehicles per day through McAllen and Pharr. I-69E is a little less busy because this region is less densely populated. In Harlingen, a maximum of 84,000 vehicles and in Brownsville a maximum of 78,000 vehicles.

Rio Grande Valley, Texas

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