Governor Rick Perry Thursday announced an ambitious plan to partner with the private sector to develop an interstate-quality highway corridor with additional rail freight capacity that connects the Lower Rio Grande River Valley to I-37 and continues along the south and east portions of Texas from Corpus Christi through Houston all the way to northeast Texas. The visionary transportation project, TTC-69, will connect industrial hubs in South Texas and the Midwest.
"When construction is complete, Texas will benefit from unprecedented trade opportunities, a faster, more reliable transportation system, and thousands of new jobs," Perry said. "For decades Texas has relied on the private sector to finance and build our telecommunications and utility infrastructure. It's time we harnessed the private sector to finance our roads and railroads, too."
Perry made the announcement at the annual meeting of the I-69 Alliance, a non-profit group of public and private sector leaders from east and south Texas. The Alliance was formed 12 years ago to advance the goal of developing the I-69 corridor. I-69 is the combination of two federally designated High Priority Corridors, which together form the shortest route between the industrial northeast and the South Texas border with Mexico.
"Instead of baby steps, I say it's time for Texas to take a giant leap forward. We can build the needed corridors that will connect the Texas cities and towns along the proposed I-69 route," Perry told the group.
Perry pointed out that Texas received scant support to design and construct transportation routes in the last two federal transportation bills. A recent overhaul of the Texas transportation code expanded the authority of TxDOT in both highway and rail infrastructure development.
"Texas has never been a state that waits for others to lead or innovate, and we've never been afraid to try something new when the old ways don't work anymore," Perry said. "We have no better choice than public-private partnerships. They are the wave of the future because they are faster, cheaper and fairer, charging a cost only to those who use toll roads."
Perry previously advanced the development of I-69 in 2002, when transportation secretary Norman Mineta asked Texas to propose a highway project for accelerated environmental review. Since then, the Texas Department of Transportation has been studying the corridor to determine how to minimize the project's environmental impact. The study is approaching the half-way point.
"We don't know exactly what needs to be built and where it will go until after the environmental study is complete. But I-69 was always envisioned as an upgrade of the existing infrastructure into interstate quality roads," Perry added. "Widening existing roads, adding truck lanes beside existing lanes, adding additional freight rail capacity, they are all components of the I-69 dream that the Trans Texas Corridor model can build much, much sooner."
Perry unveiled his Trans Texas Corridor plan in 2002. The plan is a new vision for transportation that leverages the resources of the private sector to build needed infrastructure more quickly. The Corridor will be built as the state grows over the next 50 years and is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, save commuters time with speed limits up to 85 mph, take hazardous cargo out of our most populated areas, provide for passenger rail between cities, and significantly reduce air pollution.