This is the next step in creating a NAFTA superhighway trade corridor through east Texas. I-69 used to be known as Trans Texas Corridor 69 (TTC-69) and was going to fall into the hands of ACS, a Spanish toll operator, who was awarded the initial development rights but eventually found the project to be unprofitable and never entered into a final public private partnership contract.
Portions of US 59 lined with new IH 69 signs
By Cory Stottlemyer
Ft. Bend News
April 15, 2013
In February, the Texas Transportation Commission designated 28.4 miles of US 59 from the south side of Rosenberg to the 610 loop as part of Interstate 69. This month, signs are being officially planted along the strip of highway to designate it as both I-69 and US 59.
Texas Department of Transportation’s Houston District crews are currently installing the signs. I-69 will ultimately become a 1,600-mile-long highway stretching from Michigan to Texas. The U.S. Congress has already designated three highway segments in South Texas as equal parts of the I-69 Priority Corridor: US 77 route from Brownsville to Victoria, the US 281 route north from McAllen and the US 59 route from Texarkana to Victoria.
“This is one small part of a much larger, critical link connecting Texans from Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley all the way up through Texarkana,” said Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin, III. “Interstate 69 is an essential component of our continued efforts to provide for safe, efficient travel and economic growth opportunities.”
According to Fort Bend County Commissioner and Alliance for I-69 member James Patterson, “TxDOT has plans to make IH 69 extend from SH 99 to Spur 10 by letting construction contracts no later than April 2014.”
The decision to add this section to I-69 was made by the Federal Highway Administration in early February. According to the Alliance for I-69 Texas —a coalition made up of cities, counties, port authorities and community leaders building grassroots support for upgrading the entire I-69 route in Texas —TxDOT submitted in January a technical report to FHWA that evaluated the existing design features and operational conditions of US 59. According to the Alliance’s website, the report found that “almost all of the section meets interstate highway design standards. There were five design issues identified and exceptions were approved by FHWA.”
“I-69 represents a vital component in our thriving and growing economy, not just in eastern Texas or in South Texas but across the entire state” Gov. Rick Perry said at a briefing for legislators and Alliance for I-69 Texas members on February 6th at the State Capitol. “The quality of our transportation system plays a decisive role when employers consider expanding or relocating here. That’s why we need to continue investing in infrastructure projects like I-69.”
In Texas, more than 230 miles of the I-69 route are already at freeway standard with controlled access. Nearly 100 miles worth of the interstate is near freeway standard.
The first portion of the interstate —6.2 miles located near Corpus Christi— was added to the Interstate Highway System in 2011. Last year, the second section of 35 miles was added on the north side of Houston. The signs along US 59 are the latest addition to the interstate.
“Completing Interstate 69 in Texas will take billions of dollars invested over the coming decade. When most of the Interstate Highway System was built in the 1960s and 1970s almost all the cost was paid for by the federal government. That funding formula is no longer available,” according to the Alliance for I-69. “While Congress has designated I-69 and several other future interstates, it has left the project funding up to each individual state. The cost to complete the entire I-69 Texas route as a single project is prohibitive under this arrangement. That is why Texas transportation leaders have been seeking out and utilizing innovative financing tools to step up the pace of developing incremental projects.”