• TxDOT Moves Forward on 10-Mile Section of I-69
Another 10 miles of Interstate 69 in South Texas is headed on a fast track to construction.
The Texas Transportation Commission voted to start a process that will lead to design-build construction of the interstate highway section between Corpus Christi and Kingsville in South Texas.
The commission agreed to pursue the $60 million project under a design-build contract. In this arrangement a private contractor provides design, construction, expansion and possibly maintenance of a project and can employ innovative methods including overlapping design and construction. State law allows TxDOT to enter into no more than three such contracts each year and stipulates that they must be large projects of $50 million or more.
Ed Pensock, director of the TxDOT Strategic Project Office, said the request for qualifications from potential contractors will be published in June. That will be followed by a request for proposals, team selection, negotiation of a contract and getting the project into construction.
The project will begin just south of the town of Driscoll in Nueces County and extend south through Bishop and to East Corral Ave. (FM 1898) at the north edge of Kingsville in Kleberg County. Some freeway improvements have already been completed at the US 77-FM 70 intersection in Bishop. The highway will be completed to full interstate standard with overpasses and controlled access. Pensock said it will improve safety, mobility and foster economic development in South Texas.
Almost all of the upgrade will take place in the existing highway right of way. Some additional right of way will be needed for widening in the section between Bishop and Driscoll. This section of US 77 passes through flat open row-crop farmland used to grow grain and cotton. The northern portion of the project runs along the east side of the Union Pacific Railroad.
The project is part of an overall program to upgrade US Highway 77 to interstate highway standard from I-37 at Corpus Christi to US 83 in Harlingen. The first six miles south of I-37 has already been added to the Interstate Highway System and signed as I-69. Two other Nueces County projects south of I-37 are funded – a $13 million addition of main freeway lanes through Robstown and a $35 million project to upgrade 6.5 miles of US 77 to interstate standard between Robstown and Driscoll.
US 77 UPGRADE PROGRAM
The environmental assessment for the overall US 77 Upgrade calls for new relief routes at Driscoll and Riviera. The Driscoll route would connect on the north with the $35 million project planned to go to bid in 2013 and on the south with the 10-mile design-build project.
Cameron County Commissioner David Garza urged the transportation commissioners to allocate an additional $15 million for engineering and right of way for the two relief routes in order to get them ready for future construction. He pledged that Cameron County and the Cameron County Regional Mobility Authority will assist TxDOT with planning and design necessary to move these two projects forward.
Transportation Commissioner Ned Holmes welcomed Garza’s offer to assist in dealing with critical public involvement on the relief routes. Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin thanked the leadership in South Texas for working cooperatively as a region to move incremental I-69 projects forward. He praised Cameron County officials for their persistent hard work on projects that are 100 miles outside their county.
TxDOT officials have met with Lower Rio Grande Valley leaders on numerous occasions in recent months to build on the state-local partnership working on I-69.
John Wood, vice chair of the Cameron County RMA, told the commission that I-69 is the route that connects all of the state’s seaports to the ground transportation network. He observed that completion of I-69 projects will benefit all Texans and will facilitate trade between Texas and Mexico.
Commissioner Austin noted that the I-69 Advisory Committee will meet on June 6th in Austin and is working to finalize the I-69 Master Plan. This plan is the result of several years of work by the Advisory Committee and five regional segment committees made up of community volunteers. It will provide guidance on setting priorities in the sequencing of upgrade projects along the I-69 routes including US 59, US 77, US 281 and US 84.