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The Hidalgo County Commissioner’s Court heard a report from members of the I-69 Texas Department of Transportation Advisory Committee in their Tuesday, Jan. 15, meeting of the court.

Spokesperson for the three members of the I-69 Advisory Committee was Cameron County Commissioner David Garza. Joe Phillips, former Sharyland school board member, also spoke briefly.

Garza told the commissioners I-69 is a proposed 1600-mile highway connecting Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. It is considered a high priority corridor and a future interstate highway. I-69 will intersect three major east-west interstates, I-10, I-20 and I-30. It will also intersect I-35, I-37 and I-45, which are north-south routes. It will intersect I-49 under construction in Louisiana and Arkansas.

Nearly half of the length of the corridor is in Texas. In South Texas, I-69 is to have three branches. I-69-E is to run along US 77 to Harlingen. I -69-C is to run along US 281 into McAllen. I-69-W will move west to Laredo.

The advisory committee encouraged the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to work with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create immediate designation for I-69. The first designation in Texas was a 6.2-mile section of US 77 in the Robstown area in 2011. An area of I-59 in Houston is also under consideration.

Wherever possible existing roadways are being used for the proposed I-69 route. Using the footprint of existing road right-of-ways will minimize the impact on farms, ranches and developments along the proposed route, Garza said.

In 2008, the Texas Transportation Commission created five segments for I-69. Segment One includes portions of US 59 and US 84 in northeast Texas. Segment one includes Angelina, Bowie, Cass, Harrison, Marion, Nacogdoches, Panola Rusk and Shelby Counties.

Segment Two uses I-59 through East Texas and moves through Angelina, Chambers, Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery, Polk and San Jacinto Counties.

Segment Three includes US 59 and US 77 and moves through Bee, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Refugio, Victoria and Wharton Counties.

Segment Four uses US 59, US 77, US 281, and SH 44 and includes Brooks, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, Nueces, and San Patricio Counties.

Segment Five uses US 59, US 77, US 281, and SH 44 and moves through Duval, Jim Wells, Live Oak, McMullen, San Patricio, Webb and Zapata Counties.

Highways also under consideration for an Interstate Designation are US 59 in Texarkana, US 59 from I-610 in Houston on the north side to near Rosenberg. US 77, US 83 and US 281 in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. If these designations are received, there would be federal funding for road improvements.

I-69 is recognized as being critical to moving freight, economic growth and job creation. The expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to double the canal’s capacity allowing more and larger ships to move through the canal bringing more goods into Texas.

A 13,000-acre TexAmerican Center, to be one of the largest rural business and industrial enters in the United States is to be constructed west of Texarkana. In Nacogdoches the Inland Port /A.L. Mangham Jr. Regional Airport is adjacent to the proposed I-69 route, creating an aviation port serving the corridor.

The estimated cost of the five segments considered to be priorities is $7.9 billion. The estimated cost of the entire project in Texas is $16.4 billion.

Garza urged Hidalgo County Commissioners to send a representative to the transportation committee meetings in Austin and lend their support to this project that is important to our region.

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