• Sugar Land Ceremonies Mark New Identity for Southwest Freeway
State, local and Alliance leaders raise the first I-69 sign to go up on the Southwest Freeway in Sugar Land in a ceremony held April 3, 2013, near theI-69/SH6 interchange.
The Alliance for I-69 Texas and other champions of I-69 held a celebration luncheon to mark the designation of 28 miles of the Southwest Freeway as part of Interstate 69.
Speakers at the event repeatedly praised the Alliance for the 20 years of sustained leadership and dedication to the idea of building out the I-69 corridor across Texas.
Jeff Moseley, a member of the Texas Transportation Commission and a former Alliance board member, thanked members of the Alliance. "Celebrations like this do not happen spontaneously. There are years of work and dedication to get us here. Thank you for keeping the faith and the vision. Ideas have consequences and this is a big idea, an important idea."
He recalled that 25 years ago it had become common knowledge that the interstate highway system was complete and that intermodalism should be the priority. Texans worked together to build the concept of highway trade corridors into federal law (ISTEA-1991).
"We forget how recent the North American Free Trade Agreement is but the reality is that prior to NAFTA we did not see as much demand for capacity on our North-South corridors," he said. He recalled that leaders used NAFTA as the moral authority to stress the need to enhance the interstate system to better move goods to market. The concept of international trade corridors, including I-69, were embedded in the 1991 ISTEA transportation authorization statute.
"Not all the interstates have been built," Moseley stressed. "We have a system that inherently serves east and west and not north and south. Thank goodness there was an I-69 coalition group that would not give up. Even though you were told that there would be no more interstate highway construction dollars. Thank goodness we did not take no for an answer."
"We must fight to make sure that goods are getting to market and that the free trade agreement is recognized with the appropriate infrastructure," the highway commissioner said.
Len Waterworth, executive director of the Port of Houston Authority, noted that I-69 in Texas is a multi-generational project that requires a special kind of leadership. He pointed to the legacy of decisions made 100 years ago to dig the Houston Ship Channel and to build the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. "Because of those ideas we now have a channel that supports 2.1 million American jobs and generates $499 billion a year in economic impact from a port that is number one in foreign tonnage. We have it because someone had a big idea 100 years ago to support commerce."
He thanked members of the Alliance for their 20 years of leadership and compared it to the work of visionary leaders a century ago.
"These projects are not easy. Infrastructure cycles are longer than political cycles so it takes leadership to put these multi-generational projects together. It leaves the next generation better than we found it," Waterworth said.
James Patterson, Fort Bend County Commissioner, noted that to get a project as I-69 done requires taking it one bite at a time, something he sees the Alliance promoting. He stressed how important improvements to the existing US 59 are to safety for the drivers who must travel it every day.
"I-69 is the clean fuel for the economic engine that Fort Bend County has running right now," the commissioner said. He pointed to the expanding intermodal facilities along US 59 south of Rosenberg and its great potential. He said private interests there are willing to participate in construction of overpasses to eliminate at-grade crossings.
He praised the Transportation Commission for finding $90 million funding to upgrade about 8 miles of US 59 from Reading Road in Rosenberg to Spur 10, noting that the intersection of Spur 10 and I-69 will have huge economic development potential in the years ahead.
Domingo Montalvo, Mayor of the City of Wharton and chairman of the segment committee for I-69 Segment 3, talked about the importance of the work doing over the past four years by the five community planning groups set up by TxDOT to recommend routing and sequencing priorities in the development of I-69.
"This process has been ingenious because it worked from the bottom up, from the grassroots, engaging elected officials, local leaders and citizens including the donut shop engineers. It was a shot in the arm to have those people involved," he said. He repeated TxDOT's pledge to continue citizens involvement in the years ahead as individual I-69 upgrade projects are developed.
He reported that TxDOT is following through on the dozens of segment committee recommendations including moving forward with environmental studies that are the first step in the process.
"Public involvement has helped us local elected officials. We were successful. Now people are asking us -- When is it coming?"
"We have the greatest momentum there has ever been," Montalvo concluded.