• 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. Since then more that 180 more miles have been added to the interstate system including the new Interstate 2 which connects two legs of I-69 in the Rio Grande Valley. A total of 63 miles of US 59 in the greater Houston area is now Interstate 69 and another 11 miles inside Loop 610 will be added to the system.
US 59, US 77, US 281, US 84 and Loop 20/US 59 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 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 going up and 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 initial 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
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 allowed 118 miles of freeway in the Lower Rio Grande Valley to be designated as interstate highways - I-69 East, I-69 Central and I-2.
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 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 as I-69 East, the US 281 route north from McAllen as I-69 Central, and the US 59 route from Victoria to Laredo as I-69 West. The section of the US 59 route from Victoria through Houston and on to the Sabine River at Joaquin as “I-69.” The section of US 59 from Tenaha to Texarkana is considered an I-69 connector and has been designated to be signed as Interstate 369. Interstate 2/US 83 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is also an interstate highway connector. TxDOT and the Alliance are working to have SH 44 from Corpus Christi to US 59 at Freer incorporated as part of the I-69 interregional system.