• Multi-State Supporters Update Congress on I-69 Progress
Local leaders from five states along the I-69 corridor participated in two days of meetings in Washington, D.C. to promote the continued development of I-69.
The group attended a meeting of the I-69 Congressional Caucus and heard from seven members of Congress about the critical importance of I-69 to their states and the continued bi-partisan support for I-69 in Congress.
The bi-partisan I-69 Congressional Caucus, which was formed in 2013 to demonstrate support for I-69, is co-chaired by Congressmen Blake Farenthold (TX), Henry Cuellar (TX), Larry Buschon (IN), Bennie Thompson (MS), Steve Cohen (TN), and Ed Whitfield (KY).
The more than 40 Fly-In participants also heard from Department of Transportation officials responsible for developing the National Freight Network as directed by Congress in MAP-21. Inclusion of I-69 in the National Freight Network is a strategic opportunity for I-69 and an issue trip participants emphasized during the more than 30 meetings held with members of Congress and key congressional staff.
I-69 advocates also discussed the importance of Congress passing a MAP-21 reauthorization bill before the Highway Trust Fund defaults this summer resulting in disruption of reimbursements to state transportation departments from the federal government.
The group reiterated the need to protect the gains in MAP-21 in terms of funding flexibilities, environmental streamlining, and innovative financing while at the same time pushing for a longer-term bill as well as dedicated funding for priority freight highways like I-69 that provide critical intermodal connections to enhance freight movement in this country.
Congressman Farenthold was joined hosting the May 1st congressional caucus briefing by Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin. Community and business leaders provided a national update on the status of Interstate 69.
Fly-In participants included 13 representatives of the Alliance for I-69 Texas, 10 leaders from Indiana, nine from Kentucky along with representatives of Mississippi and Louisiana.
Interstate 69 is becoming a reality as a combination of upgrades of existing highways, parkway conversions and new freeways on new terrain. Each state along the eight-state corridor is working to advance the development of I-69 as a critical highway and freight corridor in order to enhance regional mobility, safety of the traveling public and economic development.
The following is a state-by-state project update provided to members of Congress (May 2014):
Texas has an active funding program with more than $750 million in I-69 route projects underway or funded for construction in the next few years. The I-69 system highways in Texas already serve as major goods movement routes.
About 1,000 miles of existing highways (US 59, US 77, US 281 and US 84) will eventually be upgraded to make up the I-69 system in Texas. A total of 186 miles have been added to the Interstate Highway System so far including 117 miles in the Rio Grande Valley and 63 miles in the Houston area plus segments at Texarkana and Corpus Christi. In South Texas the system splits and is being designated as I-69 East, I-69 Central and I-69 West. Additional segments in Laredo and Houston are expected to be added to I-69 later this year.
Five local segment committees recommended lists of priority projects to the Texas Department of Transportation to assist in deciding the order in which incremental upgrades will be made. Many of these priority projects focus on safety issues.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development continues to move forward with environmental clearance of I-69 alignments in the approximately 95 miles through the northwest corner of Louisiana. In August 2013 the Final EIS and selected alignment were published for SIU 15 which covers about 35 miles around the south and east sides of Shreveport.
A separate environmental clearance process is complete for SU 14 covering the segment from I-20 at Houghton, Louisiana, north to near El Dorado, Arkansas.
Environmental clearance has been approved for all of the 185 mile long I-69 route in southern Arkansas. The selected route runs on the northwest side of El Dorado then east to Warren, Monticello and McGehee before crossing the Mississippi River at the proposed Great River Bridge (ROD issued 2004). Construction on the I-69 corridor includes work on an 8.6-mile relief route on the southeast side of Monticello. The I-69 system in Arkansas includes an Interstate 530 connector between Monticello and Pine Bluff and the Arkansas portion of the Great River Bridge.
A 15-mile section of I-69 in northwest Mississippi was opened to traffic in 2006. I-69 runs concurrently on I-55 from Hernando, Mississippi, to I-40 on the north side of Memphis, resulting in a total of 23 miles of I-69 being signed in Mississippi.
Construction is now underway on approximately 26 miles of future Interstate 269, a part of the I-69 system. The loop starts at I-55 in Mississippi and goes around the east side of Memphis. This work is expected to be completed in 2015.
In 2010 the Final EIS and ROD were issued defining the selected route for the 120 mile long Mississippi Delta section of I-69 from Robinsonville to the Benoit area and the Great River Bridge.
I-69 currently extends to the north side of Memphis and the I-269 loop is being constructed to connect with the section being built in Mississippi.
Work is underway on a final environmental impact statement covering the 65-mile route from Memphis north to Dyersburg. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has several projects underway in the 45 miles from Dyersburg to the Kentucky State Line near Fulton.
A total of 59 miles of Interstate 69 has been added to the Interstate Highway System in Kentucky and more than $125 million is budgeted over the next few years to upgrade the remaining 95 miles of existing parkways to interstate standard. Some $34 million in construction is underway to reconstruct the interchange of the Pennyrile Parkway. It is anticipated that the entire 154 miles in Kentucky will be signed with the I-69 shield by 2017.
Groups in Kentucky and Indiana are concentrating efforts on advocating construction of an I-69 bridge over the Ohio River at Henderson, Kentucky.
Interstate 69 from the Michigan State Line to Indianapolis has been complete for decades. Efforts in recent years have been focused on the 142 miles from Indianapolis to the Kentucky State Line at the Ohio River. Indiana opened 67 miles of new terrain I-69 in 2012 and an additional 27 miles is scheduled for completion in 2015. Indiana also received approval to rename 21 miles of existing I-164 near Evansville as I-69.
Construction will begin in mid-2014 on a 21-mile section of existing highway to be upgraded to interstate standard. Studies for the final 26-mile section of existing highway upgrades are expected once construction is underway on the 21-mile section.
All sections of I-69 are complete.
Delegation makes their way to the Capitol.
Alliance Chairman John Thompson (l) updates Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
Congressman Farenthold (l) and Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin hosting the briefing for the I-69 Congressional Caucus.
Delegation provides update to Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky (l).