State agency recommends two firms to oversee construction of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Texas-Mexico border wall

A portion of the newly-erected border fence that is being constructed by the state on private property in Del Rio on July 23, 2021.

Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.

State officials have recommended that a joint venture between a design firm and an engineering firm be awarded the contract to oversee the construction of a state-funded barrier along the Texas-Mexico border.

The Texas Facilities Commission, the state agency in charge of awarding the contract, announced on its website on Friday that it selected the partnership of Michael Baker International, Inc., and Huitt-Zollars as the top candidate for the contract.

The agency said it would make a recommendation that its commissioners award the contract at its next meeting, which has not yet been scheduled. Once the commissioners act, the contract will be awarded in mid-September, the agency said.

The contract winner will be in charge of managing budgets as well as identifying state land for wall construction and “willing private landowners to facilitate construction,” according to the request for proposal.

Three bidders competed for the contract. The value of the contract has not been determined yet.

In June, Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been a critic of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, announced a crowdfunding effort to pay for the wall and other barriers such as fencing. Abbott pledged $250 million of state money to start the effort.

As of Aug. 31, $54 million has been donated by the public, and last week the state Legislature sent a bill allocating $1.88 billion in additional funds for border security to Abbott’s desk. Of those funds, $750 million will be used to build border barriers. The governor has not yet signed the bill into law.

It’s not clear how much money would be needed to build a wall or erect other barriers along the state’s 1,200-mile border with Mexico. Abbott’s office has previously said it identified 733 miles of border that may need some type of barrier.

A contract awarded by the Texas Department of Transportation in June will spend $25 million for a nearly 2-mile stretch of “concrete barrier” along State Loop 480 in Eagle Pass.

Portions of the federal border wall started by the Trump administration, and put on hold by the Biden administration, ranged from $6 million per mile to $34 million per mile for construction.

Michael Baker International, Inc., which is headquartered in Pennsylvania, has four offices in the state, including in Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio, according to its website. The engineering firm, which was previously called Michael Baker Corp., is known for erecting more than 500 miles of the current 654 miles of barrier built along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Huitt-Zollars, whose corporate office is in Dallas, has designed Border Patrol stations in Texas and California, according to its website. It has also designed ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border.

James Barragán contributed to this report.

Join us Sept. 20-25 at the 2021 Texas Tribune Festival. Tickets are on sale now for this multi-day celebration of big, bold ideas about politics, public policy and the day’s news, curated by The Texas Tribune’s award-winning journalists. Learn more.