• I-69 Supporters Stage DC Fly-In; Urge Funding of FASTLANE Grants
June 2, 2016
WASHINGTON – More than 20 representatives of Texas communities and a member of the Texas Transportation Commission were on Capitol Hill in May urging federal officials to continue and accelerate the ongoing development of Interstate 69.
The Texas delegation to Capitol Hill lead a larger group from I-69 national route states including Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan. Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin lead the Texas delegation which included mayors, county judges, port authority representatives and local officials from Texas communities.
Participants provided a state-by-state progress update at the 3rd annual meeting of the I-69 Congressional Caucus which includes Members of Congress from all eight states along the I-69 national corridor. Caucus co-chairs Congressman Blake Farenthold (TX-27) and Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) led the discussion.
The I-69 delegation had 46 meetings with individual members of Congress and their staffs including a session with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania. They also met with Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
FASTLANE Grants for I-69
Local leaders pressed for federal approval of federal grants for two Texas projects that will improve freight movement on segments of I-69. The Texas Department of Transportation is seeking funding under the FASTLANE grant program for the I-35/I-69W interchange project in Laredo and for a portion of SH 99 which will connect I-69 directly to the Port of Houston.
The FASTLANE program was established as part of the FAST Act, the five-year federal transportation bill passed by Congress last year. This program will provide $4.5 billion over five years in competitive grants or credit assistance to nationally and regionally significant freight and highway projects.
Loyd Neal, County Judge of Nueces County and chairman of the Alliance for I-69 Texas, said the delegation also encouraged Congress to identify additional funding sources for the FAST Act which authorized spending for five years but was only funded for two years. The FAST Act includes new funding programs that will enable investment in freight infrastructure projects like I-69.
Interstate 69 in Texas is being developed as a series of incremental upgrades to existing highways following US 59 from Texarkana to Houston and south to Victoria. In South Texas there are three branches of the I-69 System including US 59 leading to Laredo, US 281 south to McAllen, and US 77 from Victoria to Corpus Christi and on to Brownsville. A total of 161 miles in Texas have been signed as I-69 and another 47 miles has been added as Interstate 2 which connects I-69E and I69C in the Rio Grande Valley.
(l-r) Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz, TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Austin, Chairman Bill Shuster, Rep. Blake Farenthold, I-69 Advisory Committee Chairman Hugh Taylor
Congressman Cuellar, co-chair of the I-69 Congressional Caucus, during Capitol Hill briefing with (r) Judge Loyd Neal, I-69 Alliance chairman.
Congressman Farenthold, co-chair of the I-69 Congressional Caucus
Texas Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36), member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
(l-r) Neal with Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Austin