Governor Greg Abbott Signs Texas Senate Bill 1474 Establishing I-27 Advisory Committee
Governor Greg Abbott signed Texas Senate Bill 1474 into law establishing the I-27 Advisory Committee to provide TxDOT with information regarding concerns and interests along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor in Texas, as well as advise TxDOT on transportation improvements that impact the Ports-to-Plains Corridor.
S.B. 1474, sponsored by Senator Charles Perry (28th Dist.) along with cosponsors, Senator Roland Gutierrez (19th Dist.), Senator Kel Seliger (31st Dist.) and Representative Four Price (87th Dist.), was signed by the House and Senate and sent to Governor Abbott’s office on May 20, 2021, and signed into law on Monday, June 15, 2021.
Members of the I-27 Advisory Committee, outlined in the bill, include ten county judges or their designee from the counties of Dallam, Howard, Lubbock, Midland, Moore, Potter, Sherman, Tom Green, Val Verde, and Webb. The legislation also identifies seven mayors or designees from cities of Amarillo, Big Spring, San Angelo, Del Rio, Laredo, Lubbock, and Midland.
“The I-27 Advisory Committee, created by this Legislation, is an important next step in the goal of moving Food, Fiber, and Fuel from Texas to the world,” said Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish. “I look forward to continuing to work with my fellow County Judges and Mayors, as we move forward with this very important transportation project.”
The mayors will meet prior to October 1, 2021, to appoint the remaining members of the I-27 Advisory Committee. These appointments will include three members who are economic development professionals selected by the geographical segments identified in the H.B. 1079 Ports-to-Plains Interstate Feasibility Study; one member who is a business representative from the agriculture industry; one member who is a business representative from the international trade industry; and one member who is a business representative from the energy industry.
“I applaud Governor Abbott signing S.B. 1474 creating an I-27 Advisory Committee,” said Lubbock City Mayor Dan Pope. “This is significant next step in our Ports-to-Plains effort to extend Interstate 27. The growth in Texas, the world’s ninth largest economy, necessitates a north-to-south Interstate to connect Mexico to West Texas, America’s heartland, the West Coast and ultimately Canada. We are thankful for our state legislators for supporting this effort particularly Senator Perry and Representative Four Price for sponsoring this bill.”
The committee will meet a minimum of twice per state fiscal year but may meet more often at the request of TxDOT or the advisory committee chair. All meetings of the committee, remote or in person, will be open to the public. The first full meeting of the committee will be held within thirty days of the appointment of the remaining members of the advisory committee.
“As we begin establishing the roadmap for the future of trade and commerce for the state of Texas, the extension of Interstate 27 is vital to our future economic growth,” Ports-to-Plains Alliance Chairman John Osborne. “On behalf of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance, we appreciate the support of Governor Abbott as well as the sponsors of this bill, particularly Senator Charles Perry and Representative Four Price.”
Additional quotes from Advisory Committee Members throughout the Texas region:
Mayor Brenda Gunter – San Angelo, Texas: "As San Angelo’s mayor I am excited to have the opportunity to continue the work to help move the future interstate I-27 down the road to an active project and transportation option."
Judge Steve Floyd – Tom Green County: “I am pleased and motivated by the Texas Legislature recognizing the importance of mobility within a crucial food, fuel, and fiber producer region. The leadership and vision of Senators Perry, Gutierrez, Seliger, and Rep. Price is appreciated by the citizens of our region and the State of Texas.”
Mayor Pete Saenz - Laredo: “My congratulations to Governor Greg Abbott in signing Texas Senate Bill 1474 which establishes the I-27 Advisory Committee. This Committee will be composed of ten County Judges, seven Mayors, or their designees, and others to be appointed by them. The purpose of the Committee is to provide vital advisory input to TxDot on any matters that may impact the planning, construction, development or on other concerns that may arise related thereto, on the Ports to Plains I-27 Corridor in Texas. I am pleased to say that the City of Laredo and Webb County will be a part of this Committee and I stand ready to serve with my fellow Committee colleagues to make this Corridor a reality, so as to better connect Port Laredo, being the largest land port in the Western Hemisphere, to other cities and markets in West Texas, the USA, and beyond.”
Mayor Shannon Thomason - Big Spring: “The City of Big Spring congratulates and thanks Governor Abbott for signing SB 1474. The I-27 Advisory Committee established by the bill will continue the fantastic work of the I-27 Feasibility Study Group and will work to ensure that Texas, especially West Texas, remains competitive in both national and world markets.”
Judge Kathryn Wiseman – Howard County: “Governor Abbott is growing Texas by signing Texas Senate Bill 1474, establishing the I-27 Advisory Committee. We are excited to see this step toward launching a corridor from Alberta Canada to the largest inland port in the nation located in Laredo Texas. The Permian Basin of Texas is the hub of energy and agriculture for our Nation. Governor Abbott just opened the door for us to pour out our treasures to the World.”
Judge Wes Ritchey – Dallam County: “I am very excited about what the passage of the Ports-to-Plains bill will mean for the future growth and economy of the Texas Panhandle.”
Click here for S.B. 1474
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Ports-to-Plains Economic Impact Study for Northeast New Mexico Completed
The Ports-to-Plains Economic Impact Study funded by the New Mexico Department of Transportation has been finalized and examines a segment of the international Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor (US Highway 87/64) in northeast New Mexico and the potential effects on the local communities (Union County, Town of Clayton, Colfax County, City of Raton) of designating the route as an Interstate Highway.
This study reflects a broader effort to establish the entirety of the Ports-to-Plains High Priority Corridor as part of the Interstate Highway System from Canada to Mexico. New Mexico will always be recognized for its progressive initiative as the first state in the Ports-to-Plains Alliance to finish the entire four-lane highway on U.S. Hwy. 87/64. This accomplishment has resulted in more efficient transportation in this region and a noticeable decrease in traffic accidents, all while providing economic benefits to the states and communities it serves.
The Study conducted by Consensus Planning, Inc. was done on behalf of the Easter Plains Council of Governments for use by the New Mexico Department of Transportation. In order to address the impacts of an Interstate Highway designation on this region, the study involved research and analysis on northeast New Mexico’s primary industries, economic development opportunities, existing transportation and mobility conditions, and the existing physical infrastructure of the route. A series of stakeholder interviews were conducted with representatives from the energy, tourism, and agriculture industries to ascertain their opinions on the potential impact of the Interstate Highway designation.
KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE STUDY:
The interstate designation of the Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor (US Highway 87/64) between the New Mexico-Texas state border and Raton would provide positive economic development impacts for northeast New Mexico. In addition to general economic impacts, there would be an increase in both temporary construction related employment and permanent post-construction employment.
The study divided the US 87/64 Corridor into nine segments for analysis. With improvement to Interstate Highway standards, traffic is projected to increase between 1% and 2%. The Level of Service (LOS) is A for all segments for existing and future traffic volumes. Improvement or expansion of the Corridor would not create traffic congestion along the Corridor.
Improvement or expansion of the Corridor would create temporary and cumulative/permanent employment opportunities in the region. The study looked at five-year increments between 2025 and 2040. Temporary employment includes construction for highway improvements, lodging, truck stop, restaurants, wind farms and wind generation manufacturing, marijuana grow facilities, a distribution center, meat processing facility, and a solar energy facility. There would be 10,770 direct construction-related jobs and 20,034 indirect jobs created by 2040. Permanent employment covers the same categories, with the exception of highway construction, adding up to 3,448 jobs by 2040.
The energy industry would benefit from improved access for construction of renewable energy facilities. There are two large-scale wind generation projects planned in the region; the 50,000-acre Triangle Gallegos Wind Farm in Union County and the 16,000-acre Gladstone Wind Farm in Union, Colfax, and Harding counties. The Union County Comprehensive Plan shows an additional 27,000 acres available for future renewable energy projects.
The Clayton Business Park and the planned Raton Industrial Park/Distribution Center are ideally situated along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor. Both facilities will have space and infrastructure available along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor to support local manufacturing and distribution, such as wind-related equipment and value-added agriculture.
Designation as an Interstate Highway would provide benefits to the agriculture industry. This would improve the ability to transport products to market and increase opportunities for value-added agricultural processing, such as beef, hemp, and marijuana.
The tourism industry would benefit from improved access and increased tourism traffic. Based on the traffic projections with Interstate Highway designation, the number of visitors is expected to increase to destinations such as Capulin Volcano National Monument, Clayton Lake State Park and Dinosaur Trackways, and Sugarite Canyon State Park. In 2019, there were 5.7 million visitors to northeast New Mexico; the number is projected to grow to 6.9 million by 2040, a 22% increase.
The freight industry would benefit from improved access to the national highway network. Agricultural products are the largest freight transportation users and rely on national and international markets. While much of the freight traffic on the Ports-to-Plains Corridor is generated outside the region, improved access to Canada and Mexico will benefit local industry. The planned Raton Industrial Park/Distribution Center is located at a critical junction equidistant from major metropolitan markets in Denver, Amarillo, and Albuquerque.
The full cost to bring the existing facility up to Interstate Highway standards would be a substantial investment, and require improvements to existing road conditions, acquisition of right-of-way, and construction of a bypass around the Town of Clayton. The study included two cost scenarios, 1) Rehabilitate the current Corridor and construct a truck bypass around Clayton; and 2) Convert the existing US Highways (US 87/64) within the Corridor to an Interstate and construct a truck bypass around Clayton. Scenario 1 would cost approximately $219 million, including contingencies. Scenario 2 would cost approximately $1.3 billion, including contingencies. Both cost scenarios include construction of a bypass around the Town of Clayton.
Download complete Ports-to-Plains Economic Impact Study for Northeast New Mexico here.
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Rep. Arrington Says Port-to-Plains Progressing through Bipartisan Efforts
Efforts continue on the Port-to-Plains trade corridor, with White House negotiations slowly underway. Congressman Jodey Arrington says the legislative proposal passed last session, and he expects it to pass this session now that it has bipartisan support. He proposed, along with Laredo’s representative Henry Cellular, to give the highway a federal designation or expand it.
At the June 10 rural summit, Arrington said the designation would benefit more than producers. “It would be $55 billion in economic impact to Texas and, and ten of thousands of jobs to West Texans. It’s a big deal, and we’re making great progress on it,” Arrington said.
See Lubbock KCBD video and article here.
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Update from Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association
By Cal Klewin, President
The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) bid a project on November 13, 2020 to repair an earth slide north of the new Long X Bridge (Horse Shoe Bend). This project will stabilize the earth so when we receive funding to 4-Lane the roadway between the Bridge and Watford City, NDDOT does not have to deal with the slide at that time. This project is scheduled to be complete later in 2021.
NDDOT will be bidding a project to install a fence by the new wildlife crossing in July; the fence should be installed later this summer. NDDOT is also actively on planning for a Wetland Bank to mitigate all wetlands from I-94 to Watford City. This project is pending 2022 depending upon environmental clearance and approvals.
The Planning for the 4-Lane segment between the new Long X Bridge and Watford City are about 90-95% complete. NDDOT is active on R/W appraisals for the 4-Lane the segment between the new Long X Bridge and Watford City, and anticipate starting to make offers to land owners later this fall. The utility relocations have not been started along this corridor at this time. NDDOT needs to finalize some of the right-of-way impacts first before we start on the utility relocations, starting this process in 2022. NDDOT has applied for an INFRA Grant back in March and we are still waiting to hear back whether we were successful with that application. Once NDDOT has funding secured, a bid date can be set for the project.
U.S. 85 in North Dakota is now a high priority project for the North Dakota Department of Transportation and with the Environmental Impact Statement complete for the project from Watford City to I-I94 at Belfield, North Dakota; the challenge is the funding to complete our goal of a 4-Lane system.
The Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association (TREA) and the Ports to Plains Alliance continues to work with state Legislators and the representative corridor Congressional Delegations lobbying for transportation funding for the corridor.
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Update from Heartland Expressway Association
By Julie Hertaus, Secretary/Treasurer
The Heartland Expressway Association is looking forward to kicking in-person meetings this month in Alliance and traveling around all our HEA communities. The Heartland Expressway’s 21-member association of committed individuals and organizations have been meeting monthly via teleconference for the past year to evaluate state and federal legislation, make efforts to promote the expansion of the Heartland Expressway route, and improve awareness within our region of the benefits of the entire Ports-to-Plains Alliance 4-lane completion. Cheers to a new normal that we hope lasts!
Heartland Expressway Running Through the House
Thanks to our western Nebraska representatives of the Heartland Expressway, a $10 million request for the next phase of the expressway has been included in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee bill. This next phase will connect the current 4-lane construction happening on the stretch from Angora Hill to L62A Junction, all the way to Minatare which will complete a 4-lane expressway from Alliance east to Scottsbluff and Scottsbluff south to Kimball.
Same Goal, New Look
The Heartland Expressway board’s goal remains to advocate and educate in an effort to complete the 4-lane expressway system, but we were excited to begin a one-year contract with Sage Strategies to revamp all things marketing and communications this month. We look forward to sharing these changes in the coming months and be on the lookout for our new logo unveiling!
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Registration is Open for the 17th Annual West Texas Legislative Summit in San Angelo
The West Texas Legislative Summit scheduled for August 3 - 4, 2021 is an award-winning event, which brings together hundreds of elected officials and business professionals from throughout West Texas. This event provides a forum for West Texas community representatives to spend a day addressing our common legislative priorities.
Click here for more information and to register
Check out the newest Ports-to-Plains Video!
Click to View This Video
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