• Stage Set For Laredo's Loop 20 to Become Interstate 69
February 27, 2014
Local, state and federal officials have taken two big steps that will lead to adding part of State Loop 20 in Laredo to the Interstate Highway System as part of I-69.
First came a celebration marking the unveiling of I-69 Future Interstate Corridor signs along Loop 20 which is also known at the Bob Bullock Loop. Then on February 27th the Texas Transportation Commission redesignated most of Loop 20 as US Highway 59 making it officially eligible to be part of Interstate 69.
The 1991 federal ISTEA highway law designated US Highway 59 from Texarkana to Laredo as part of the national I-69 priority corridor. It did not, however, resolve the question of how I-69 would connect to Interstate 35 and to a major Rio Grande crossing since old US 59 enters Laredo on Saunders St., a busy city arterial street.
The new designation means that US 59 now enters Laredo from the east near Casa Blanca Lake then turns north running pass Laredo International Airport and Texas A&M International University before crossing under Interstate 35 and ending at the busy World Trade Bridge, a distance of 11 miles.
The 2-mile section of Loop 20/US 59 from I-35 to the border crossing was built to interstate highway standard and is now being evaluated by TxDOT and the Federal Highway Administration for addition to the Interstate Highway System as Interstate 69.
SIGN UNVEILING CELEBRATION
State Senator Judith Zaffirini of Laredo represents a district that include 178 miles of the I-69 route. She reminded those at the unveiling ceremony that Americans today owe much to President Eisenhower for his determination to get the Interstate Highway System built.
Sen. Zaffirini noted that in Laredo every milestone seems to start in controversy and recalled that in years past candidates were asked if they supported I-35 or I-69. “We realized that we did not have to choose and we did not. Laredo will benefit from having both. The I-69 corridor will have a huge impact for the Laredo area and for McMullen, Duval, Live Oak, Bee and San Patricio counties in South Texas. We will all be interconnected when this is complete -- better connected with friendly neighbors to the north and the south,” she said.
U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar emphasized the importance of providing additional connectivity between Laredo and points to the east. He pointed out that in 2012 Laredo was the number one inland port in the nation with border crossings by 4.4 million cars, 38,000 buses and 1.7 million trucks. That is more than double the number of truck crossings at any other border point.
“I-69 will connect cities and towns across the country to commercial opportunities once thought unheard of, lowering the cost of doing business and making travel safer for those whose lives depend on trade,” said Cuellar who is co-chair of the Interstate 69 Congressional Caucus.
The congressman joined several speakers in praising Jorge Verduzco, executive vice president of International Bank of Commerce in Laredo, for his years of dedicated work on behalf of the I-69 initiative and for his contributions to that effort as a founding member of the 20-year-old Alliance for I-69 Texas.
State Rep. Richard Raymond of Laredo noted that there is no other state where the interstate system plays a more vital role than in Texas. He made the point that the border gateway at Laredo is an economic anchor for Texas and the nation. He credited Commissioner Austin and representatives of communities along US 59 for helping get US 59 designated as an interstate corridor so that as sections are completed they can be added to the national system.
He noted that the willingness of Webb County and the City of Laredo to successfully establish a regional mobility authority will mean that progress can be made on developing funding for projects on the I-69 route in Webb County.
Laredo Mayor Raul G. Salinas called the designation of the first section of Loop 20 as I-69 a dream come true, an event that shows what can be done when communities work collectively. He pointed to the constant truck traffic passing the ceremony and emphasized the importance of facilitating smooth movement of commerce. “We have to be good facilitators. It helps everybody,” he said.
Jeff Austin III, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission, noted that as sections of I-69 are upgraded they will provide critical links for boosting commerce and connectivity between rural and urban Texas. “This link is especially significant to Laredo as it will allow the city to continue growing as a hub for business, commerce and economic prosperity,” he said.
“What a great day for Laredo as we are making I-69 a reality. With the signs we have up around the state we are beginning to work with local, regional and state partners to make this happen. This is a shared dream and it shows what can be accomplished with everyone working together,” Austin said.
John Thompson, chairman of the Alliance for I-69 Texas and county judge of Polk County in East Texas, noted that pieces of the I-69 route have been added to the Interstate Highway System at Texarkana, Houston, Corpus Christi and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. “Now we have to work very hard to connect all those dots,” he said.
Judge Thompson stressed the importance of the I-69 system in Texas as a freight corridor supporting Texas industry and communities. He said that funding is the greatest challenge to completion of all I-69 route upgrades to interstate standard. He pledged that the Alliance will be active in generating support for a major highway funding proposal that will be decided by Texas voters in November.
Judge Thompson thanked Congressman Cuellar for his work in setting up the I-69 Congressional Caucus which was a goal of the Alliance in 2013.
UPGRADING US 59/LOOP 20
The TxDOT Laredo District has developed a plan for upgrading Loop 20/US 59 to interstate standard from I-35 to the connection with the rural section of US 59. Phase 1 will included completion of the interchange at I-35 and development of expressway main lanes east to International Blvd., a section which includes the recently completed overpass bridges at McPherson Road. Phase 2 will include main lanes and interchanges at Shiloh Road, Del Mar Blvd, University Blvd., Jacaman Blvd. and Airport Drive. None of these projects are currently funded. All of them are inside the city limits of Laredo. See more information on Laredo Loop construction [HERE].