Federal Update | I-27 Advisory Committee Holds First Meeting | Heartland Expressway Report | Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Report

October 2021  Volume 19  Issue 10


We are a voice for our small town, grassroots members who may otherwise not have access to the right audiences, as well as a conduit for industry to come together in support and promotion of transportation improvements.


We are committed to working as an Alliance to improve transportation infrastructure and business networks opportunities, by advocating for appropriate funding levels, so business and industry can thrive.


We are focused on the economic and business interests that are the lifeblood of the region.


Ports-to-Plains Alliance Federal Update

On October 18th, the Senate Appropriations Committee released their version of the FY22 bill funding the U.S. 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.  It is unclear at this point whether the committee will mark the bill up in a hearing and send it to the full Senate or instead move directly to negotiations with the House on a conference agreement that could be included in an end of year "omnibus" spending package that would need to clear both chambers and be signed into law by the President.  


Although the Ports-to-Plains designation was not included in the House version of the transportation appropriations bill, it did pass the House earlier this year as part of that chamber's version of the infrastructure bill. We are now focused in our advocacy efforts on working with members of the Texas and New Mexico delegations to urge house appropriators to agree to the Senate language making the Ports-to-Plains future interstate designation.


Early indications are that appropriators and house leadership are not opposed to these efforts. Currently, Congress is operating under a "continuing resolution" funding the federal government until December 3rd, so that is seen by many as the likely target date for an agreement on the appropriations bills and an increase on the debt-ceiling. However, nothing is certain in the extreme partisan environment Congress is currently operating under-- with close margins in both chambers.  


While it is possible that negotiations on appropriations completely break down and Congress is forced to pass a longer term "continuing resolution" that would fund the government at current levels without any new authorizations or designations, we believe we are well positioned to have the Ports-to-Plains Texas and New Mexico designation language included in any end of year appropriations package that does come together.

Federal update provided by David Pore, Partner at Hance Scarborough & Associates


I-27 Advisory Committee Holds First Successful Meeting

The I-27 Advisory Committee created by Texas S.B. 1474, held its first meeting on October 14, 2021. The virtual meeting agenda included an Overview of S.B. 1474; Nomination and Election of Chair and Vice Chair; Key Goals of the Committee; Ports-to-Plains Corridor Interstate Feasibility Study Summary; Ports-to-Plains Corridor Project Updates; and an Update on Proposed Federal Legislation by the Ports-to-Plains Alliance.


The mayors met on September 23, 2021 to nominate six members to the I-27 Advisory Committee per SB 1474. The Economic Development Representatives were Kevin Carter, President/CEO of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation (Segment 1); Guy Andrews, Director of Economic Development, City of San Angelo (Segment 2); and Oriana Fernandez, Economic Development Director, City of Del Rio (Segment 3). The International Trade Representative is Gerry Schwebel, Executive Vice President, IBC Bank; the Energy Industry Representative is Tracee Bentley, President and CEO, Permian Strategic Partnership; and the Agriculture Industry Representative is Dee Vaughan, Board Member, Texas Corn Producers.  These appointed representatives joined the ten County representatives and seven Mayors for this meeting.


Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope was elected as Chair and San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter as Vice Chair. Following the election, the complete committee began working towards identifying Key Goals of the Committee.  That effort will continue into the next meeting of the Committee.


Each TxDOT District office provided an update of projects along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor including the projects included 2021 Unified Transportation Program (UTP) that are planned for the next ten years, and the Interstate Upgrades and the Relief Routes needed to develop the I-27 Interstate in each TxDOT District.


The presentation provided at the meeting gives more details and can be downloaded below.


Heartland Expressway Association Quarterly Report

Annual Meeting

We hosted our 2021 Annual Heartland Expressway Association board meeting at the Western Nebraska Regional Airport out in Scottsbluff. Special guests Cathy Shull, John Ricks, and John Selmer were the highlight of the meeting. Shull, with Sage Strategies, presented a video that included the new logo reveal and explained the different parts of the work-in-progress communication plan she has been working on for the past months.


John Ricks, Director of Nebraska Tourism, gave a motivational talk on how economic development is the key to successful tourism efforts across the state. With the expressway construction being completed leg by leg, there is hope that we are closer and closer to a bright future in tourism out in western Nebraska! Keynote speaker John Selmer, Nebraska Department of Transportation Director, spoke on his management style as he more recently stepped into the director position and what the future of transportation looks like. We would like to extend another thank you to each of you for joining us at our annual meeting.


Communication Plan Update

September was a big month for HEA as we finally got to see our new logo on swag we plan to use at events, trade shows, and meetings going forward. Sage Strategies has also been working on completing the communication plan that will allow for better education, visibility, and opportunity for the board and communities along the Heartland Expressway corridor and beyond.


Update provided by Julia Hertaus, Heartland Expressway Association Board of Directors, Secretary/Treasurer


Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association Quarterly Report

The repair to earth slides north of the new Long X Bridge (Horse Shoe Bend) is nearing completion. 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.


The installation of the fence by the new wildlife crossing is under construction and is nearing completion. NDDOT is also actively planning 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 landowners later this fall. The utility relocations have not been started along this corridor at this time.  NDDOT needs to finalize some of the R/W impacts first before they start on the Utility relocations, starting this process in 2022. 


Oversized Loads continue to move along the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway.

U.S. 85 in North Dakota is a high priority project for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, the Governor’s office, and the North Dakota Legislature, with the Environmental Impact Statement complete for the project from Watford City to I-I94 at Belfield, North Dakota, it is very important we move timely. The challenge is the funding to complete our goal of a 4 Lane system.


North Dakota’s Legislature will go into special session on November 8, 2021. Currently, they are dealing with redistricting, and funding discussions for roads, water, pipelines, etc.  The Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association is hopeful we are considered for funding the next segment of our project, Watford City to the Long X Bridge, and to consider funding to continue planning for the 4-lane to Highway 200.


Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are reviewing dozens of requests for a portion of the estimated $1 billion in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds allocated to North Dakota by the federal government. Among them is a $317 million list of projects suggested by the ND Department of Transportation.  The NDDOT list includes a request to fund construction of a 4-lane on Highway 85 from Watford City to the Long X bridge in 2023.


The Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association (TREA) and the Ports to Plains Alliance continue to work with state Legislators and the representative corridor Congressional Delegations lobbing for transportation funding for the corridor.


Update provided by Cal Klewin, Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Executive Director


Ports-to-Plains Alliance is proud to welcome our newest members! 


Duffy Hinkle

Vice President of Membership & Marketing

Ports-to-Plains Alliance

PO Box 16226

Lubbock, TX 79490



Joe Kiely

Vice President of Operations

Ports-to-Plains Alliance

PO Box 758

Limon, CO 80828




Cal Klewin

Executive Director

Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association

PO Box 1306

Williston, ND 58802



Deb Cottier


Heartland Expressway Association

337 Main Street

Chadron, NE 69337




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