• I-69's Role as Major Freight Corridor Stressed in Washington

May 30, 2017

Community leaders from along the I-69 route in Texas met with members of Congress and federal officials during an annual Washington, D.C., fly-in event in May and highlighted the need to sustain the momentum behind the I-69 initiative. 

The Alliance for I-69 Texas delegation participated in a meeting of the multi-state I-69 Congressional Caucus, joined in discussions of the current and future impact of improved freight movement along the I-69 Corridor, and had meetings with other members of Congress and officials at the US Department of Transportation.

The Texans led a larger group of representatives from the eight states on the I-69 national route which runs from Michigan to South Texas and connects international border crossings for freight movements, ports, intermodal hubs and major market distribution points.

Jeff Austin III, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, again participated in Fly-In activities and was part of a panel discussion of freight movements including goods originating at Texas sea ports and border crossings.  Austin shared a TxDOT presentation which graphically illustrates how quickly freight moving out of Houston, Brownsville or Laredo makes its way by truck to other states from coast to coast.  The data was collected by following the GPS location of many individual outbound trucks over a seven-day period.   

The I-69 supporters urged members of Congress to focus on identifying the additional funding sources that will be needed in order to fully fund the five-year FACT Act transportation funding bill passed in 2015.  It is essential to I-69 progress that Congress take action to fully fund the out years of the program in order to maintain sustained investment in surface transportation.  

The FAST Act provides long-term planning horizons that are critical to advancing large-scale connectivity projects like I-69.  The increased focus through the FAST Act on development of freight infrastructure is helping ensure targeted investment in intermodal freight corridors like I-69.

I-69 supporters urged Congress and the Administration to include investment in critical freight systems as part of new infrastructure initiatives proposed by the Administration to invest more than $1 trillion over the coming decade.

They encouraged federal agencies to work with states to expand mileage eligible for I-69 designation including flexibility for interstate designation in sparsely populated rural areas.

The I-69 Congressional Caucus is co-chaired by Representatives Blake Farenthold and Henry Cuellar of Texas, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Larry Bucshon of Indiana, and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

Federal officials were provided progress report on each of the eight states along the national route.  You can see the report and a status map [HERE].

The group met at the Department of Transportation with Finch Fulton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy; Jeff Burr, Chief of Staff for Secretary Chao; Matt Kopko, Counsel to the Deputy Secretary; and Tom Everett, FHWA.  Commissioner Austin presented the case that I-69 is a critical part of freight movement that impacts the Lower 48 States.  Judge Loyd Neal, Alliance chairman, presented the case that relief is needed from federal regulations and that time and money can be saved by DOT granting exclusions for I-69 designations in rural areas such as the ranch areas in South Texas.  The DOT personnel were receptive to the ideas presented.  DOT officials stressed that priority will be given to projects in the new infrastructure investment bill that are innovative and have strong local support and commitment.

Alliance representatives presented a metal I-69 Texas highway shield to recently elected freshman Congressman Vicente Gonzalez.  These shields are a prominent wall hanging in many Texas congressional offices.

(L-R) Cory Floyd, Texarkana Chamber; James Carlow, Bowie County Judge; Loyd Neal, Alliance Chairman and Nueces County Judge; Sen. John Cornyn; Hugh Taylor, Harrison County Judge; and Charlie Zahn, Commission Chair, Port of Corpus Christi Authority.

FREIGHT ISSUES PANEL - (L-R) Paul Lewis, Vice President of Eno Center for Transportation; John Drake, Senior VP of American Trucking Association; Charlie Zahn; and Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin.


Alliance delegation meets with Congressman Brian Babin of East Texas, a member of the House Transportation Committee.


Delegation presents wall sign to recently-elected Congressman Vicente Gonzalez of South Texas.


Delegation meets with Congressman Louie Gohmert of East Texas.

 

US Senator John Cornyn of Texas

Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi and South Texas

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston

Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo