The Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization has been awarded the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations’ top award.

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez submitted the nomination in the MPO Coordination and Partnership category, though the AMPO panel of judges decided that the RGVMPO — formed last year through the merger of the Brownsville, Harlingen-San Benito, and Hidalgo County MPOs — deserved the highest honor, the Outstanding Transportation Management Award.

MPOs are responsible for planning, programming and coordinating federal funding of highways and transit. The nonprofit AMPO was formed in 1994 to serve the needs and interests of those organizations.

Mendez said Brownsville has been “really involved” with the new MPO since its formation and that he submitted the nomination at the behest of Deputy City Manager Helen Ramirez. He said being informed by AMPO that RGVMPO had been tapped for the top award was “just shocking and great news at the same time,” and that it speaks to the value of the merged MPO and working together regionally.

The merger, which produced the fifth largest MPO in Texas, was a good move, Mendez said.

“In retrospect it was huge,” he said. “The funding that we’ve been able to now have access to is significant. … We just got like $1.1 billion in funding that was approved. We probably would have never had access to that kind of funding had we not merged.”

AMPO represents more than 300 MPOs around the country. For a newly created organization like RGVMPO to garner such a national distinction isn’t just beginner’s luck, Mendez said.

“I would just say that we had the benefit of already having worked together, and we got stronger together and just kept moving and going forward and hit the ground running for sure, and done some good things in a short period of time,” he said. “All things seem to be clicking and moving in a great direction.”

RGVMPO Executive Director Andrew Canon said he was “excited and humbled” to hear the news of the award.

“I want to first and foremost thank my staff,” he said. “Without them and their dedication for the last 15 months the RGVMPO would not have been as successful.”