AUSTIN — The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday gave final approval to designation of an additional 116 miles of freeway in South Texas and Northeast Texas as part of the Interstate 69 system.  The Federal Highway Administration approved the four highway sections the week before.

The newly designated interstate sections mean a total of 186 miles of the I-69 route that have been added to the Interstate System in the past two years.

“This is a landmark day in the 20-year effort to make I-69 a reality in Texas,” said John Thompson, Alliance board chairman. “It is the result of a sustained local, state and federal cooperative effort.  Community leaders along the I-69 route have relentlessly pursued this goal because they know that moving people and freight efficiently is vital to our economy and our quality of life.”  

Transportation Commission action means that for the first time the large population centers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley will be served by the Interstate Highway System. Three Valley highways are now interstates.

U.S. 77 through Cameron and Willacy Counties will be signed as Interstate 69 East. This includes 52 miles of existing freeway starting at the Rio Grande in Brownsville and running north past Raymondville.

The 13 miles of U.S. 281 freeway in Pharr and Edinburg will be signed as Interstate 69 Central, a designation that will eventually extend northward all the way to George West.

The east-west U.S. 83 freeway that connects more than a dozen Valley cities has been designated as Interstate 2.  It extends approximately 46 miles from Harlingen to west of Mission. U.S. 83 was not designated by Congress as part of I-69 but the Alliance for I-69 Texas and community leaders have insisted over the years that it should be considered an interstate connector between the legs of Interstate 69.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley interstate highway designations were made possible by the passage of milestone federal legislation championed by the Alliance for I-69 Texas over a period of several years and passed in 2012 as part of MAP-21.

The effort led by Congressmen Blake Farenthold — who represents Wharton County — and Ruben Hinojosa and Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, and co-sponsored by every member of the Texas Delegation along the proposed I-69 route removed from federal law a requirement that completed highway segments must be connected to an existing interstate highway before they could be added to the Interstate Highway System.

The Transportation Commission also designated a five-mile section of U.S. 59 freeway on the southwest side of Texarkana as Interstate 369. The three-digit I-69 spur designation will eventually be given to the entire 115-mile section of U.S. 59 from Texarkana to a point near Tenaha in Shelby County.

This is necessary because the planned national route for Interstate 69 leaves Texas following U.S. 84 near Joaquin and heads northeast into Louisiana and southeast Arkansas.

Interstate 69 in Texas is being developed as a series of incremental upgrades to existing highways following U.S. 59 from Texarkana to Houston, through Wharton County and south to Victoria.

In South Texas there will be three branches of the I-69 System including US 59 leading to Laredo, U.S. 281 south to McAllen, and U.S. 77 from Victoria to Corpus Christi and on to Brownsville.

The first 6.2-mile section of Interstate 69 is on the western edge of Corpus Christi and was signed in 2011.  A 35-mile section of the Eastex Freeway north of Houston became I-69 in 2012 and a 28-mile section of Houston’s Southwest Freeway — from Loop 610 to Rosenberg — became I-69 earlier this year.

The 11-mile section of U.S. 59 through downtown Houston is under engineering review by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.  It is anticipated it will be added to I-69 within the coming year.  

TxDOT has programmed a total of $742 million in funded I-69 route projects to be completed over the next few years.

(1) comment

RobnRiviera

The community in Riviera stands united in opposing the re-route of this new Hwy 69 around Riviera. The existing Hwy 77 that runs through Riviera is an adequate route to upgrade and developing a route around that is unreasonable as well as completely destructive to our small community. TxDOT claims to have followed all rules in announcing the re-route, but the reality is they simply held town hall meetings to tell us what they were going to do. Those meetings are a farce. TxDOT told us what they are going to do and the community was given 2 minutes to voice their opposition, but no open discussion was held. One excuse given to not upgrading the current highway was that it would destroy the businesses currently on the highway. Taking the highway around the city will completely destroy the businesses as little traffic will pass them. Instead TxDOT will destroy locals' land holdings by cutting through pastures and farms that have been in families for years. I have been looking for something to stop the progression and I have found it. We have a threatened species that will be completely decimated should the current TxDOT plan be followed- the American Dream of land ownership and family. TxDOT will take a community that is currently divided in two by Hwy 77 and divide it in 3 by the re-route. This highway will run within a hundred yards of our property, take half of the property belonging to an elderly couple behind us and go through several houses just north of us. Our property values will be destroyed and our quiet living will also. We have the right of quiet enjoyment of our property and we will lose that right. The wind in our area usually blows from the southeast and the re-route will go east of us, so we will wake up to road noise very near our house. Once again, big government runs over the little people and your support of such actions is inexcusable.

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