Congressional Support for Future Interstate Designation
Without the strong support of the Congressional members, this designation could not have happened. Early in the 117th Congress, H. R. 1608, the Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Jodey Arrington (TX-19), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Kay Granger (TX-12), Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Tony Gonzales (TX-23), and Kelly Armstrong (ND). In the Senate, S.705 also titled the Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021, was introduced by Senators Ted Cruz (TX), John Cornyn (TX), and Kevin Cramer (ND). Both bills were designed to designate the Ports-to-Plains Corridor in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado, and a portion of the Heartland Expressway in Colorado. These bills were a critical to getting the ball rolling.
As the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure geared 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). 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.”
On July 1, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed its version of the Transportation Reauthorization Bill (H.R. 3684). The Ports-to-Plains Alliance is extremely appreciative to Texas Representatives Jodey Arrington (CD-19), Henry Cuellar (CD-28), Ronny Jackson (CD-13), Tony Gonzalez (CD-23), August Pfluger (CD-11) and Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger (CD-12), along with Nebraska Congressman Adrian Smith (CD-3) and Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas (CD-3) for supporting our efforts to have the Port-to Plains Corridor designated as a future interstate. During this process Congressman Brian Babin (TX-36), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was integral to getting the bill amended to include the designation Language. During this process the designation was reduce to designating the Ports-to-Plains Corridor in Texas and New Mexico.
On November 5, 2021, after the U.S. Senate substituted what became the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, and that bill passed. The final version did not include designation language.
The Alliance’s efforts then shifted to the FY 2022 Appropriations bill. Again Congressional support in both the House and Senate was key to success. On October 18th of 2021, the Senate Appropriations Committee released their version of the FY2022 bill funding the US Department of Transportation. We were very pleased that language designating the Texas and New Mexico portion of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor as a future interstate was included in the bill with the strong support of Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) who sits on the Appropriations Committee, as well as the other three senators from New Mexico and Texas (Senators. Ben Ray Luján (NM), John Cornyn (TX) and Ted Cruz (TX). The bill, including designation language, was passed by the Senate on January 13, 2022.
The U.S. House provided concurrence on H.R.2471, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 on March 10, 2022. The final bill was signed by President Biden on March 15, 2022. In the House, support came from Representatives Jodey Arrington (TX-19), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Ronny Jackson (TX-13), Tony Gonzalez (TX-23), August Pfluger TXD-11) and Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12).
Officially, the Ports to-Plains Corridor in Texas and New Mexico was designated as a Future Interstate. The Future Interstate now includes:
A. The Ports-Plains Corridor from Laredo, Texas, via I-27 to Denver Colorado, shall include:
i . In the State of Texas the Ports-to-Plains Corridor shall generally follow--
I. I 35 from Laredo to United States Route 83 at Exit 18;
II. United States Route 83 from Exit 18 to Carrizo Springs;
III. United States Route 277 from Carrizo Springs to San Angelo;
IV. United States Route 87 from San Angelo to Sterling City;
V. From Sterling City to Lamesa, the Corridor shall follow United States Route 87 and, the corridor shall also follow Texas Route 158 from Sterling City to I 20, then via I 20 West to Texas Route 349 and, Texas Route 349 from Midland to Lamesa;
VI. United States Route 87 from Lamesa to Lubbock;
VII. I 27 from Lubbock to Amarillo;
VIII. United States Route 287 from Amarillo to Dumas; and
IX. United States Route 287 from Dumas to the border between the States of Texas and Oklahoma, and also United States Route 87 from Dumas to the border between the States of Texas and New Mexico.
iv. In the State of New Mexico, the Ports-to-Plains Corridor shall generally follow United States Route 87 from the border between the States of Texas and New Mexico to Raton.