• Where Interstate 69 in Texas Stands Today
» 230 Miles of Freeway Already Built
More than 230 miles of the Interstate 69 route in Texas are already at freeway standard with controlled access and about 100 more miles are near freeway standard. The first 6.2 miles of I-69, located near Corpus Christi, was added to the Interstate Highway System in 2011. The second section of 35 miles on the north side of Houston was added in mid-2012. More completed sections will be added in 2013 and 2014.
US 59, US 77, US 281, US 84 and Loop 20 in Laredo are being incrementally transformed into Interstate 69 in Texas. The completed freeway sections have been marching steadily north and south from Houston for the past two decades. The 40 additional miles of continuous expressway, all at interstate highway standard, from Loop 610 North down to Rosenberg are being reviewed for addition to the Interstate System..
In the Rio Grande Valley the US 77 freeway is completed to interstate highway standard for 40 miles starting near the Rio Grande in Brownsville to ending near Raymondville. This section can now be added to the Interstate System and signed because of a 2012 change in federal law. A Federal Highway Administration review of this designation is now underway.
Construction projects are underway or soon will be near Falfurrias, Lyford, Kingsville, Alice, Robstown and Sinton in South Texas. Two projects near Shepherd have extended the Eastex Freeway deeper into East Texas. In the past few years upgrade projects have been completed on US 59 near Jefferson, Lufkin, Spendora, Sugar Land, Beasley, Kendleton and Victoria.
Work has moved forward on Loop 20 which will ultimately serve as the final connector between the I-69 system, I-35 and the Laredo area's busy international trade bridges.
The Texas Department of Transportation has been at this upgrade task since the 1960s. In some locations right-of-way needed for the interstate was acquired decades ago. And for years TxDOT has been designing and constructing upgrade projects to meet interstate design standards.
The existing highways that will comprise I-69 connect Texans and Texas businesses in Texarkana, Marshall, Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Houston, Wharton, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Brownsville, McAllen, Laredo and dozens of smaller communities. The colorful interstate highway shields are not up yet but large sections of highway are now safer to drive on because they are at interstate highway standard with fully controlled access.
With each overpass and every additional mile of I-69 upgrades, new doors open for economic development, new jobs and more efficient freight movements. Reduced travel times create new opportunities for families, giving them improved access to better jobs, university campuses, regional medical centers, shopping and greater recreational choices.
The state long-range transportation plan stresses the need for improved linkage between Texas cities to serve freight traffic and to connect cities and rural areas. It emphasizes that I-69 is a high priority for the state because of the important role these highways play in moving goods including cargo handled by Texas seaports and freight moving back and forth across the border with Mexico.
The US 59, US 77 and US 281 upgrade program has had strong local support for decades. Five regional segment committees made up of dozens of local officials and community representatives have been at work the past few years developing a set of recommendations for what should be built along the I-69 route and which improvements should come first in each region. Their work was compiled into a Recommendations Report by the I-69 Advisory Committee and presented to the Texas Transportation Commission in December 2012.
JOINING THE INTERSTATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM
Texans will soon see more Interstate 69 signs on portions of US 59 in the Houston region and on US 59 in Bowie County, both of which are complete and connect to existing interstate highways. The Alliance was successful in getting federal law changed to authorize Texas to post Interstate 69 signs on portions of US 77, US 59 and US 281 that meet interstate standards but that do not yet connect to an existing interstate. This will include about 80 miles of freeway in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
FUNDING CHALLENGES FOR INTERSTATE 69
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. 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.
The Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority (Brownsville) and the Hidalgo County Regional Mobility Authority (McAllen) have stepped forward to take leadership roles in financing and building some of the I-69 projects that will be needed to make I-69 a seamless system in South Texas.
State leaders are acutely aware of the ongoing highway funding crisis in Texas and have worked to create fresh alternatives to traditional project development. The Legislature in 2011 expanded the authority of cities and counties to set up transportation reinvestment zones (TRZ) to build transportation projects. Additional or incremental tax revenue that is generated in the zone because a road project is built can be captured and used to pay for the project. It does not involve any new taxes. Other approved legislation confirms the state’s willingness to allow public private partnerships to build some major highway projects with specific legislative approval. At present these projects are concentrated in the state's urban centers but this tool could be made available for certain I-69 projects when they are ready to move forward.
The U.S. Congress has designated three highway segments in South Texas as equal parts of the I-69 Priority Corridor. The Alliance supports the upgrade of all three routes so they can become part of the Interstate Highway System. In establishing a long list of national High Priority Corridors, federal law designates the US 77 route from Brownsville to Victoria, the US 281 route north from McAllen and the US 59 route from Texarkana to Victoria to Laredo as “I-69.” Additionally, US 83 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is at interstate standard and may be designated as an I-69 spur. TxDOT is also incorporating SH 44 from Corpus Christi to US 59 at Freer as part of the I-69 interregional system connecting Texans. The national AASHTO Special Committee on Route Numbering will help decide how the South Texas routes are to be numbered.