Maybe the Trans-Texas Corridor wasn’t so dead after all.
Gov. Rick Perry stepped up his support Wednesday morning for new interstate highway construction running from coastal South Texas up through Texarkana. Joined by members of the Alliance for I-69 Texas, Perry praised the group’s efforts since 1994 to expand the highway, and to keep building money flowing from state and federal coffers.
Perry said Interstate 69 will be a boost to Texas’ already thriving economy, as part of his broader vision to attract more businesses to Texas. (It’s a vision he’s been selling outside of Texas lately, too.) Perry called for billions more in state spending to fill out the I-69 project, once a piece of his (supposedly) ill-fated Trans-Texas Corridor project from years ago.
“We’re starting to see some benefits of this very long process,” Perry said. The plans for Interstate 69 would create a 1,600-mile highway running from Texas to Michigan.
In 2002, Perry proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor plan as a network of highways, tollroads, railroads, water and utility lines throughout Texas. Critics had a field day with the controversial plan that would have required a massive seizure of land by eminent domain, and would have cost the state over $170 billion.
The corridor plan was pronounced officially dead by the Texas Department of Transportation in 2009, but I-69 seems to have taken on new zombie life, with just under 70 miles of Texas highway already designated as I-69.
Polk County Judge John Thompson, chair of the Alliance for I-69, said this morning that there are 200 more miles to go within Texas. Currently the I-69 system includes parts of existing highways that run through South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley.
TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Austin III said that, as recently as few days ago, the Federal Highway Administration approved designation of an additional 28 miles along the part of U.S. 59 into West Houston. Thompson said the highway will allow for more mobility and development in areas “in dire need” of economic opportunity.
So far, TxDOT has put $637 million into I-69 projects, some of which are still in progress—but the Alliance said Texas will need to put more money in for future expansion. Perry said this morning that’s just what Texas should do.
As he mentioned briefly in his State of the State address, Perry said he supported moving $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for a one-time investment in infrastructure. Perry would like some of that money to pay for building I-69.
“We’re eager to maintain the momentum that we’ve generated,” Perry said. “Our success has placed a growing strain on our infrastructure. … We’re having to deal with a substantial growth in traffic and being the nation’s top exporting state for the last 10 years in a row. We’ll have to deal with our transportation needs if we want to keep the winning streak going.”