SOUTHWARD LANE

Staff photo by Albert Villegas

Motorists in southwest Houston maneuver on the Sam Houston Tollway to get on to the US-59/I-69 ramp to either drive north (downtown) or south (Victoria).

The I-69 system will extend through Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan providing a continuous new interstate corridor connecting Mexico, the United States and Canada.

The I-69 system within Texas will eventually extend nearly 1,088 miles along the following highways:

• U.S. Highway (US) 59 from I-30 in Texarkana to Laredo

• US 84 from the Louisiana border to US 59 in Timpson

• US 77 from US 59 in Victoria to Brownsville

• US 281 from US 59 in George West to I-2 in Pharr

• State Highway (SH) 44 from SH 358 in Corpus Christi to US 59 in Freer

• SH 550 (formerly Farm to Market Road [FM] 511) from I-69E to SH 48 at the Port of Brownsville

The I-69 system in Texas is being developed through a series of incremental upgrade and relief route projects to bring those highways up to interstate standards. To date, approximately 161 miles of the I-69 system in Texas have been designated as interstate. Almost 100 miles of the network of highways meet or are being constructed to meet interstate standards. However, because these highways do not yet connect to an existing interstate system, in accordance with Federal requirements, they cannot be designated as interstate. Approximately 828 miles remain to be constructed to meet interstate standards. It is important to note that the total mileage of the I-69 system in Texas will likely change as upgrade and relief route projects are identified and advanced, which may modify the length of the existing routes.

In March 2008, the Texas Transportation Commission authorized the creation of an I-69 Advisory Committee. This committee, composed of volunteers from I-69 corridor communities, advises TxDOT on I-69 issues and priorities and engages regional and local stakeholders on I-69 status and project development.

I-69 Advisory Committee guiding principles:

• Recognize I-69 as critical to Texas.

• Achieve interstate designation as quickly as possible.

• Maintain public input as an essential part of all future work.

• Maximize the use of existing highways while seeking to reduce program costs and impacts to private property.

• Address safety, emergency evacuations and emergency response needs.

• Pursue flexibility and efficiencies in design and construction requirements.

• Encourage initiatives that will supplement limited highway funds.

Wharton belongs to which district?

The Yoakum District services the following counties: Austin, Calhoun, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Gonzales, Jackson, Lavaca, Matagorda, Victoria and Wharton. The district designs, builds, operates and maintains the state transportation system across county lines.

In this district, 1) US Highway 59 from the Fort Bend/Wharton County line to the Victoria/Goliad County line and 2) US Highway 77 from south of Victoria to the Victoria/Refugio County line will be developed to meet interstate standards as part of the I-69 system development.

Wharton belongs to Houston district?

The Houston District services the following counties: Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange and Tyler. The district designs, builds, operates and maintains the state transportation system across county lines.

In this district, US Highway 59 from the Liberty/Montgomery county line to the Fort Bend/Wharton county line will be developed to meet interstate standards as part of the I-69 system development.

Interstate designation process

Highway sections that are identified by Congress to be part of the national interstate system, such as I-69, must meet interstate design standards established by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) before being officially designated as interstate. There are a number of steps to be completed in the interstate designation process. The process can take up to a year to complete.

Confirm Section is Ready to Designate

Highway sections that do not meet interstate standards would be designed and constructed to meet those standards. Once construction is completed, TxDOT would evaluate and confirm that the highway meets interstate standards. It would also confirm that it 1) connects to an existing interstate or 2) is part of plan to connect to an interstate by 2037.

Prepare Request

A technical report is developed in accordance with Title 23, Part 470 of the Code of Federal Regulations as part of a TXDOT request. Depending on the location of the highway section, resolutions of support from metropolitan planning organizations and local governments may be necessary as part of the request.

Submit Request to FHWA

The technical report is submitted to the FHWA for review and approval. During this step, there is typically some coordination between TxDOT and FHWA to address any comments and concerns that FHWA may have. The FHWA will then make a decision whether to approve the designation request.

Submit Route Number Request to AASHTO

Once FHWA approves the designation request, TxDOT prepares and submits a Route Number Application to the AASHTO Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering. This committee typically meets twice a year to consider requests. To date, the I-69 system in Texas comprises the following designated interstate highways: I-69, I-69W, I-69C, I-69E, I-169 and I-369.

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