Members of Congress Support Future Interstate Designation
As the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure gears up its consideration of the surface transportation reauthorization bill, members of Congress in Texas and North Dakota submitted a member letter to the leadership of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure stating: “We urge the inclusion of H.R. 1608, The Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021, in the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization bill.” The member letter was signed by Jodey C. Arrington (TX-19), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Kay Granger (TX-12), August Pfluger (TX-11), Kelly Armstrong (ND-At Large), Ronny L. Jackson (TX-13), and Tony Gonzales (TX-23).
The Ports-to-Plains Alliance appreciates the support for the Ports-to-Plains Corridor and Future Interstate Designation provided by these members of Congress.
Link to Member Day Letter
In addition to the member letter, U.S. Congressman Jodey Arrington (Tex-19) provided a verbal testimony during the April 14, 2021 Member Day Hearing. His testimony is as follows:
“Thank you for providing Members the opportunity to share our priorities for 117th Congress. As you continue to develop your proposal to rebuild our nation's infrastructure, I'd like to take this Member's Day hearing as an opportunity to urge the inclusion of H.R. 1608, The Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021, in any surface transportation reauthorization legislation. This is an issue of great importance and value to the constituents of TX-19 and rural America.
This legislation designates the Ports-to-Plains Corridor in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado and a portion of the Heartland Expressway in Colorado as a Future Interstate. Both the Ports-to-Plains Corridor and the portion of the Heartland Expressway are Congressionally designated High Priority Corridors on the National Highway System.
The Ports-to-Plains region includes states which lead our nation's energy and agriculture economy, producing over $44 billion in agriculture goods, or 22 percent of total U.S. agriculture production. The Ports-to-Plains corridor generates over $166 billion annually in trade with Canada and Mexico, accounting for almost 20 percent of all U.S.- North American trade. Simply put, Middle America provides the food, fuel, and fiber that strengthens our nation. As the United States dominates the global trade market, we must also look to strengthen infrastructure in rural communities. Access and upgrades to adequate rural infrastructure not only promote the wellbeing and quality of life for people living in rural communities, but also ensures the safe and efficient transportation of food, fuel, and fiber throughout the country.
My priority for the 117th Congress is for H.R. 1608, The Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021, to be included in the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization bill. This critical step in highway expansion would improve economic development, safety, and efficiency for America's Heartland. I look forward to working with you this Congress on this critical legislation.”
Return to contents
New PORTSTOPLAINS.COM Website
The Ports-to-Plains Alliance launched its new website on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. The web address is unchanged: https://portstoplains.com/.
The new site was developed by Madden Media of Tucson, AZ with collaboration from Ports-to-Plains staff and the Marketing team from Lubbock Economic Development Alliance. The overall strategy was to “create a website with easy to digest content that focuses on the key areas, the Ports-to-Plains Alliance is looking to inspire action. Less about adding membership, more about federal and state support and buy-in.”
The Alliance hopes that the results provide not only our membership but elected officials at the state and federal levels easier access to information they need to support our efforts. The Home Page provides the main menu, several bullet points on accomplishments and for blocks that will be updated with links to the latest information. The menu system is greatly simplified with the main menu showing About Us, Advocacy, Conference and Media.
This main menu About Us provides Our Story, Mission, Vision and Values. Under the submenu, Our Partners, the Heartland Expressway Association and the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association are described and linked. The Our Membership submenu focuses on the Why and Benefits of membership in the Ports-to-Plains Alliance. The Membership Directory submenu provides a link to the current members of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance. An option is given to search by organization, by city, or simply click on SEARCH to see the entire directory. Our submenu, Board and Staff, provides information on the Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board of Directors and Staff including our state and federal consulting team.
The Advocacy menu item provides an overview of legislative activities including Federal and State Legislation as well as the full results from the Texas Ports-to-Plains Corridor Interstate Feasibility Study. The Reports submenu will take you to currently significant studies and reports. The Maps submenu will allow you to view any of several pdf maps including the latest corridor map.
The menu item will be where information on the current year Conference information will be stored. The Past Conferences submenu will provide links to the last two (2) years conference presentations.
The menu item will provide instructions for Media Inquiries and the submenus for Newsletters and Press Releases will provide links to the last few years of Ports-to-Plains Alliance media.
Return to contents
North Dakota Approves $50 million for TRE
On April 12, 2021 North Dakota Senate passed SB 2012 which provides $50 million to Highway 85 on the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway with some caveats. Ports-to-Plains Alliance assisted Cal Klewin, Executive Director of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, in providing testimony in both the North Dakota House and Senate supporting this biennial North Dakota DOT Budget bill. Klewin testified: “The 2021-2023 Biennium is an opportunity not only to make infrastructure improvements but to make an economic stimulus to the North Dakota economy post-COVID. TREA urges you to approve the DOT budget in full.”
SB 2012 states: “The department of transportation may borrow from the Bank of North Dakota, $50,000,000, or so much of the sum as may be necessary, which is appropriated to the department of transportation for matching federal funds that may become available, for the biennium beginning July 1, 2021, and ending June 30, 2023. The funds authorized in this section may be borrowed and spent only upon certification by the director of the department of transportation to the director of the office of management and budget that the department has been awarded additional federal grants related to United States highway 85 during the biennium beginning July 1, 2021, and ending June 30, 2023, and that other state funds from bond proceeds are not available for this purpose. The department of transportation shall request from the sixty-eighth legislative assembly an appropriation to repay any outstanding loans authorized in this section.”
NDDOT has already submitted an INFRA Grant application in the current cycle. The next Theodore Roosevelt Expressway project is U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and the Long X Bridge, a distance of 10.3 miles at an estimated cost of $104.5 million.
H.B. 1431 is still pending that would provide bonding capacity for infrastructure projects including U.S. Highway 85.
As introduced, H.B. 1431 would have allowed the public finance authority to issue up to $798.5 million of bonds for transfer to the Bank of North Dakota for allocations to infrastructure projects and programs, for the biennium beginning July 1, 2021, and ending June 30, 2023. This bonding authority included $70 million to the highway fund. The $70 million would be a contingent transfer to the highway fund with $35 million designated for state highway bridge projects, and $35 million designated for matching federal funds that may become available for state highway projects in excess of the federal funds appropriated to the department of transportation as part of its 2021-23 biennial budget.
The North Dakota House reduced to the bonding authority to $680 million, but still included $70,000,000 to the highway fund. Senate amendments increased the bonding authority to $1.11 billion with the same $70 million to the highway trust fund.
Bond repayment would be from interest on the Legacy Fund (this is where oil and gas severance tax goes in North Dakota).
Return to contents
Check out the newest Ports-to-Plains Video!
Click to View This Video
Return to contents