• Another 6.1 Miles Added to I-69 Texas System
The Federal Highway Administration has given final approval to adding 6.1 more miles to the Interstate 69 System in South Texas.
This includes a 4.5 mile extension of Interstate 69 Central (I-69C) north to a point just past the Edinburg Airport in Hidalgo County and a 1.6 miles extension of Interstate 69 East (I-69E) on the south side of Robstown in Nueces County. Construction on each of the sections was completed in recent months.
Russell Zapalac, chief planning and project officer for TxDOT, provided an update on I-69 System planning and construction at the annual meeting of the Alliance for I-69 Texas Board of Directors.
He reported that to date 159 miles of the congressionally designated I-69 route in Texas have been approved and added to the Interstate Highway System. That does not include the 47 miles of Interstate 2 in the Rio Grande Valley that the Alliance considers to be an integral part of the I-69 System.
PROJECTS IN DESIGN
Zapalac noted that plans and specifications were recently completed for three projects:  US 77 mainlanes and an overpass just south of the Kenedy County line in Willacy County, a northward extension of I-69E;  the International Drive interchange on US 59/Loop 20 on the northeast edge of Laredo in Webb County; and  US 59 between Spur 10 and Kendleton in Fort Bend County, a total of eight miles.
Three more projects are in the final design and specifications stage including:  US 59 overpass at Hanselman Road on the east side of Victoria;  US 59 overpass at Doris Road north of Kendleton that will serve the Kansas City Southern Railroad's busy Rosenberg Intermodal Center; and  US 59 from the Wharton County line to the north side of Kendleton in Fort Bend County.
Zapalac said TxDOT has been able to kick start a number of projects because of the passage of Proposition 1 by voters in 2014. A total of $220 million in Prop 1 funding has been committed to I-69 projects in the first two years and he expects that more projects will be added in the 2017 funding cycle.
He said that all of the projects in final design, plus I-69 upgrades at Splendora in Montgomery County, will benefit from Proposition 1 funding. He said these projects will probably be high candidates for moving to construction relatively quickly so TxDOT wants to get as many of them "shelf ready" as possible so they can move forward as funding becomes available.
He reported that TxDOT is conducting route planning and environmental studies at Marshall, Nacogdoches, Diboll, Corrigan, south of Cleveland in Liberty County, across all of Wharton County and on the Loop 20 section of US 59 in Laredo.
"I-69 has to be one of our top priorities right there with I-35 and I-45," the chief planner said.
He explained that TxDOT is working within the boundaries of legislation passed earlier this year directing the department of refine its process for selecting projects for funding. Priorities will be set based on local input and on safety, freight movement, congestion relief and economic development impact. He said I-69 addresses all of these priorities. He stressed the importance of I-69 as a freight mobility corridor serving a growing volume of freight moving in and out of the state's deepwater ports and the international ports of entry along the Rio Grande.
As more sections of I-69 are brought to interstate standard, I-69 will have a positive congestion relief impact by taking traffic away from I-45 and I-35, Zapalac said.
He also said that most of the sections of the I-69 route that were at or near interstate standard have now been added to the Interstate Highway System and that future additions will require the state to ramp up new investments to eventually connect those sections.
Alliance for I-69 Board members get an update from TxDOT during their Annual Board Meeting in Houston.