Federal Update | HEA holds Annual Meeting | TX and ND DOT Projects Tie for Regional Award | Upcoming I-27 Advisory Committee Meeting

September 2021  Volume 19  Issue 9


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

As a recap - our efforts to enact into law a future interstate designation for the Texas and New Mexico portion of the Port-to-Plains Corridor hit a snag when a bipartisan amendment sponsored by all four Senators from the two states did not receive a vote during consideration of HR3684, the INVEST in America Act, a $1.2 trillion bipartisan surface transportation and infrastructure bill that passed the Senate in August. Although the designation was included in the House passed version of the bill, the Senate bill is now going to be voted on this week in the House under a rule that does not allow further amendments. Unfortunately, the amendment is ineligible to be included in another larger "human infrastructure" bill moving through the Congress under "reconciliation" rules by the Democrats who hold narrow majorities in both chambers.


We are now seeking to capitalize on the momentum and support established through the infrastructure process to have the future interstate designation language included in the bill funding the U.S. Department of Transportation for the 2022 fiscal year. Sen Heinrich (D-NM) sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and has taken a lead role in advocating to his Democratic colleagues on the committee for inclusion of the language in the Senate's version of the transportation appropriations legislation.


On September 21, Port-to-Plains Alliance staff and mayors from cities along the corridor met with Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock) and Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) to discuss this strategy, and secured the commitment of Senator Cornyn to work with his Republican colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to include the future interstate designation. We are receiving positive feedback from both sides about this request, and establishing bipartisan support for the language to be included. Although the language was not included in the House transportation appropriations bill, Rep. Cuellar (D-Laredo) who sits on the House Appropriations Committee has taken a lead role in working with the committee and leadership to advocate for acceptance of the Senate language if and when it is included in that chamber's version of the bill.


We are cautiously optimistic about our chances of inclusion of the two-state interstate designation amendment in an end of year "omnibus" appropriations package and will be working towards that goal over the next several weeks. If that bill does not pass or we are not successful getting the language included, we will work to get the House and Senate stand-alone designation bills H.R.1608/S.705 fast-tracked to move early in 2022 under expedited procedures in the House and Senate reserved for non-controversial bills.


Although partisan tensions are extremely high in Washington DC right now, we have been pleased to see Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress from Texas and New Mexico work together towards passing this important designation legislation.

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


Photos from Heartland Expressway Association Annual Meeting


Deb Cottier, HEA Board Chair and Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board member served as moderator

John R. Selmer, Director of Nebraska Department of Transportation


John Ricks, Director of Nebraska Tourism Commission


Pictured above: Heartland Expressway Association Board of Directors along with NDOT Director John Selmer.

Front: Karen Anderson, Annie Folck, John Selmer, Starr Lehl

Back: Deb Cottier, Julia Hertaus, Tom Garwood, Mike Dafney, Doug Leafgreen, Pat Heath


Cathy Shull, Owner of Sage Strategies and Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board Member

Heartland Expressway Association Holds Annual Meeting in Scottsbluff, Nebraska

More than 30 members and guests attended the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Heartland Expressway Association. The luncheon, held in Scottsbluff last Wednesday, September 22, featured presentations from several speakers.


HEA (Heartland Expressway Association) Board Chair Deb Cottier moderated the meeting and shared highlights of the past year, including the strategic planning process that led to the request for proposals to develop a new Communications plan for the organization.


Cathy Shull of Sage Strategies (and fellow Ports to Plains Board member), was awarded the contract and briefed the group on the plan, which is still in progress. Identifying markets, beefing up the social media presence and overall awareness of the organization are the main goals of the plan. With Shull’s assistance, an aggressive amount of work will be accomplished in the next 6-8 months.


John Ricks, Director of the Nebraska Tourism Commission spoke regarding the importance (since the pandemic) of surface transportation to the new found ‘exploring’ activities of visitors to the area. Western Nebraska has much of what visitors are looking for, and better roads make it easier to improve our visitation numbers.


John Selmer, the new Director of the Nebraska Department of Transportation shared his background and the philosophy he brings to the position. His many years of experience in Iowa provide a good understanding of the balance between rural and urban needs.


Selmer is becoming more familiar with the vast number of miles of roads in Western Nebraska that require maintenance as well as consideration for additional miles. He welcomed the input from the HEA organization and is ready to engage in conversations regarding the Heartland Expressway as the department tries to be proactive about the future of transportation needs.


One highlight of the luncheon was the unveiling (officially) of the new logo for the organization, which has not been updated since 1990. The Board of Directors continues to meet monthly, moving the meetings from one end of the corridor to the other.


A video developed by Shull of Sage Strategies highlights the relationship between Ports-to-Plains and the Heartland Expressway. It is available on our website and Facebook page, along with the annual report.


Texas and North Dakota DOT Projects on the Ports-to-Plains Corridor Tie for Regional Award

WASHINGTON—Seven state department of transportation projects in Arizona, California, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas, and Utah earned regional recognition in the America’s Transportation Awards for providing safer access to kids walking to school, removing a highway to reconnect a community, and creating a better way to inform motorists about weather events to save lives, among others.


“As the COVID-19 pandemic forced many Americans to drastically change work patterns, state DOT employees continued the harrowing work of keeping our transportation systems operating safely and efficiently for those who had to travel, whether by vehicle or other means,” said Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “The America’s Transportation Awards program highlights just a few of the projects and programs across the country that had a positive impact on our communities’ quality of life during an otherwise uncertain time.”


Sponsored by AASHTO, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the competition serves as a way to recognize state DOTs and the projects they deliver that make their communities a better place to live, work, and play. Project nominations fall into one of three categories: Operations Excellence, Best Use of Technology & Innovation, and Quality of Life/Community Development. All nominated projects will first compete on a regional level against projects of their own size: “Small” (projects costing up to $25 million), “Medium” (projects costing between $26 million and $200 million), and “Large” (projects costing more than $200 million).


In the Western region—the last of the regional competitions—13 states nominated 29 projects, with seven state DOTs taking home the following eight America’s Transportation Awards.


Arizona Department of Transportation — Fourth Street Bridge over Interstate 40 (Quality of Life/Community Development, Small category)


Texas Department of Transportation — US 175/S.M. Wright Freeway Phase 1 project (Quality of Life/Community Development, Medium category)


Utah Department of Transportation — I-15; Lehi Main to S.R. 92, Technology Corridor (Quality of Life/Community Development, Large category)


Oregon Department of Transportation — I-84 Snow Zone Safety Improvements Project (Operations Excellence, Small category)


North Dakota Department of Transportation — New Long X Bridge (Operations Excellence, Medium category—TIE)


Texas Department of Transportation — US 87 Truck Relief Route in Howard County project (Operations Excellence, Medium category—TIE)


California Department of Transportation — U.S. Highway 50 Echo Summit Sidehill Viaduct Replacement Project (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Small category)


New Mexico Department of Transportation — NM 136 Pete Domenici International Highway Concrete Overlay Project (Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Medium category)


More on America’s Transportation Awards categories:

Community Development/Quality of Life – Recognizes projects that provide significant benefits to the communities in which they are located, especially in the form of economic growth and the well-being of citizens.


Best Use of Technology – Recognizes the use of new technology and creative solutions implemented by a state DOT.

Operations Excellence – Recognizes projects that deliver a more reliable, well-functioning, and safer transportation system through operational solutions.


Information and Video Developed by AASHTO

I-27 Advisory Committee to Meet Virtually on October 14th

Texas Senate Bill 1474 requires the establishment of an Interstate 27 Advisory Committee. The purpose of the Committee is to provide TxDOT with information on concerns and interests along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor in Texas and to advise TxDOT on transportation improvements impacting the Corridor. Creation of an I-27 Advisory Committee was a policy recommendation from the Ports-to-Plains Corridor Advisory Committee as part of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor Interstate Feasibility Study completed in 2020.


The I-27 Advisory Committee will hold its first meeting virtually on Thursday, October 14, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m (CT). Information on how to connect to this public meeting are available at the I-27 Advisory Committee page. SB 1474 identified the participants on this committee. Committee members include:


Ten County Judges or an elected county official or the administrator of the County Road Department designated by the County Judge of the county:

  • Dallam County
  • Howard County
  • Lubbock County
  • Midland County
  • Moore County
  • Potter County
  • Sherman County
  • Tom Green County
  • Val Verde County
  • Webb County

Seven municipal Mayors or the City Manager or an Assistant City Manager designated by the Mayor of the municipality:

  • Amarillo
  • Big Spring
  • Del Rio
  • Laredo
  • Lubbock
  • Midland
  • San Angelo

Three economic development professionals, to be selected by the Mayors, on the Committee based on geographic segments that were established for the feasibility study

  • One member, appointed by the Mayors on the Committee who is a business representative from the agriculture industry
  • One member, appointed by the Mayors, on the Committee who is a business representative from the international trade industry
  • One member, appointed by the Mayors, on the Committee who is a business representative from the energy industry

The Mayors met on September 23rd and identified the additional members described above and those individuals are being contacted to determine their willingness to serve.  


The I-27 Advisory Committee will meet a minimum of twice a year and at such other times as requested by TxDOT or the Committee chair.  All advisory committee meetings, whether remote or in person, must be open to the public.


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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