• Interstate 69 West Signs Going Up in Laredo

August 26, 2014

Federal, state and local officials -- joined by an Alliance for I-69 Texas delegation -- held a day of celebration August 25th to mark the unveiling of the first Interstate 69W signs in Laredo.

The Texas Transportation Commission and the Federal Highway Administration in June approved designation of a key 1.4-mile section of freeway in Laredo as part of the Interstate 69 system and officially on the Interstate Highway System.

Participants in the unveiling ceremony included Congressman Henry Cuellar of Laredo and Transportation Commission Member Jeff Austin who pulled the cord to reveal the red, white and blue shield.

The newly designated interstate section means that a total of 188 miles of the I-69 system and connectors have been added to the Interstate Highway System in the past three years.  That includes 47 miles of Interstate 2/US 83 in the Rio Grande Valley connecting I-69E and I-69C.

The newly designated interstate section  begins near the busy World Trade Bridge on the west side of Laredo and extends east to an interchange with Interstate 35.  New Interstate 69W signs are going up on this section and on I-35 and other roadways approaching 69W. The Alliance for I-69 Texas was instrumental in working with Laredo community leaders to push for early designation of the new 69W section.

Marc Williams, TxDOT director of planning, pointed out that the move means that each end of congressionally designated High Priority 20 – at Laredo and Texarkana – are now part of the national Interstate System.

“There is a more to go but this continues significant progress being made on I-69.  As a point of reference, while the system is more than 1,000 miles in length, over 140 miles of the corridor have been designated since November of 2011, and the total amount of funding that has been invested in these projects since that time is over $940 million.  So it shows tremendous progress to get to this point,” Williams said.

Commissioner Austin said, “As the Texas Transportation Commission continues to look at opportunities to improve freight movement, enhance international trade and expand access to markets to support the economic competitiveness of Texas, I-69 continues to be a critical link for boosting commerce and connecting Texas communities. The future of I-69 within the city of Laredo remains central to this effort and will allow for continued growth of business, commerce and economic prosperity in the region.”

He said that it is well understood that I-69 in Texas can’t be done all at one time and that it will be done “little-by-little” in many individual projects.  “This adds an exclamation point at Laredo,” he said while noting that the busy truck crossings at Laredo show why I-69 in Texas should be designated at a high priority freight corridor in coming federal legislation.

He noted that the length of the I-69 route in Texas is greater than the combined mileage on the national I-69 route through Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. He reported on recent discussions he has had about the national I-69 route with leaders of the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

Congressman Cuellar said the designation paves the way for further growth and commercial vibrancy in South Texas. “Improvements to the roads and infrastructure of I-69 are a boost to the economy of South Texas and the region as a whole. I thank the Texas Department of Transportation for its commitment to ensuring we continue our investment in transportation and look forward to our
continued collaboration,” he said.

Alliance Board Chairman John Thompson took time during the celebration to thank IBC Bank of Laredo for its years of continuous support in helping move the I-69 initiative forward in Texas. He also thanked Jorge Verduzco, a founding member of the Alliance who is retiring from the bank this year.

The American Association of State Highway Officials committee that approves the numbering of federal highways voted in April to designate the Laredo highway as Interstate 69 West (69W).  The 69W section will eventually run on US 59 from Laredo to Victoria. In South Texas I69 is being created by updating US 59 (69 West), US 281 (69 Central) and US 77 (69 East).

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 entered 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 past 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. 

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS on the I-69W designation:

Texas Senator Judith Zaffirini
“Interstate 69 will enhance greatly Laredo’s status as an important international port city. It not
only will help accommodate increased traffic from gulf coast ports to Laredo as a result of the
expansion of the Panama Canal, but also will support freight and truck traffic related to new
energy sector activity in the Eagle Ford Shale and other areas of Texas. Count on me as a
member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Select Committee on Transportation Funding,
Expenditures and Finance to continue to champion funding for highway improvements that
will hasten the completion of the new interstate.”

Roque Vela, Jr., City of Laredo Councilmember, Dist. V
“The designation of this section of roadway as I-69 is one more example of the city of Laredo,
Webb County and TxDOT working together to secure the future of our community. It is
recognition at the state and federal level of the significant effect that our city has on the state of
Texas and the nation as this nation’s No. 1 inland port, No. 3 U.S. Customs District and the front
door to the United States for trade with Mexico and beyond. The importance of the I-69 corridor
is the promise of enhanced mobility and reliability of the road system. So, here starts I-69 and
we must redouble our efforts, and revitalize our partnership with Webb County, TxDOT, the
State of Texas and the federal government to insure that we complete this project.”

Danny Valdez, Webb County Judge
“Webb County and the city of Laredo appreciate all the efforts put forth by Texas
Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin III, U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, the Alliance for
I-69 of Texas and TXDOT for the designation of I-69 W in the Laredo/Webb County area. As the
city of Laredo and Webb County continue to grow, so too does the need for this future corridor
which will facilitate trade, commerce, enhanced economic opportunity, mobility and safety.”

Jorge Verduzco, Alliance for I-69 Texas
“As a founding member of the Alliance for I-69 Texas, I have worked with Laredo and
regional leaders for over 20 years to advance the development of this international corridor.
Officially signing a section of I-69 in Laredo is a milestone and underscores the commitment to
building I-69 along US 59 to the border in Laredo. We must continue our community
involvement to ensure a seamless I-69 is complete.”

State Representative Richard Raymond

“I am delighted that Laredo has a key 1.4-mile section of freeway added to the Interstate
Highway System as I-69. Laredo has the freight traffic that is at the base of I-69’s importance as
a freight highway connecting to international border crossings, seaports and other markets.
Laredo continues to grow and consequently continues to increase in its freight traffic.”

Congressman Henry Cuellar (left) and Transportation Commission Member Jeff Austin III sign an I-69W souvenir sign replica commemorating the day.

Representing the Alliance for I-69 Board of Directors were (L-R) Julian Alvarez, Commissioner David Garza, Jorge Verduzco, Judge John Thompson and Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Shepard.