Interstate 69

An announcement by the chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission could breathe new life into the Interstate-69 Project. The state is proposing an alliance with a private investor. It could be the solution needed to move the project forward.

For years limited funding has been the largest obstruction to building Interstate 69 a proposed superhighway that runs from Canada through the United States to Mexico.

A Monday news conference drew spectators from many sectors of East Texas. Most of whom were on hand to hear the latest on the Interstate 69 Project.

Under the direction of Governor Rick Perry, the Texas Department of Transportation has been told to begin soliciting from the private sector proposals for a 600 mile corridor. The proposals would include the developers experience in developing and financing large transportation projects.

"I think the governor decided it was time to quit waiting and move ahead. we were losing too many jobs," said Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.

The request for qualifications, issued by the Texas Department of Transportation, initiates a competitive, two-step selection process to develop a public-private partnership for I-69/TTC. Proposers would be asked to submit statements detailing their experience in developing and financing large, multi modal transportation projects. These statements also would include a conceptual proposal to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain I-69/TTC.

The Texas Transportation Commission would need to approve the next step - issuing a request for detailed proposals. The entire two-step selection process can take approximately 15 months to complete.

Over the next 25 years, the Texas population is expected to increase an additional 64 percent--can you imagine a Texas with 50 million people? Use of roads in Texas will increase an additional 214 percent, while the state road capacity will grow only an additional six percent. I-69 has long been touted as the answer to many of the state's future highway transportation needs.

With no funding set aside for construction, a public-private partnership would allow the development of I-69/TTC to be accelerated. Officials stress I-69 will remain a state-owned project.

"We are not going to see the highways built out of tax dollars. This gives us the alternative to build the highways we need to get the industry to keep our kids at home and that's what this is all about," said Polk County Judge John Thompson, Vice Chairman, Alliance for I-69 Texas.

"The ideal candidate for Trans Texas Corridor 69 would be a partnership between timber interests, manufacturing interests in the Missouri areas, manufacturing interests in Monterey, Mexico, road builders who are familiar with the East Texas terrain, I can't name names because that would sound like I was favoring someone, but road builders in the Houston area that are comfortable with the terrain and local banking interests that understand what the manufacturing background of East Texas is, that would be the ideal partnership," said Williamson.

It will cost an estimated 86 billion dollars to fund the I-69/ Trans Texas Corridor.

"When construction is complete, Texas will benefit from unprecedented trade opportunities, a faster and more reliable transportation system, and thousands of new jobs," said Governor Rick Perry in a letter to Williamson in December. Interstate 69 is a planned 1,600-mile national highway. Eight states are involved in this project. In Texas, I-69 will be developed under the Trans Texas Corridor master plan.

An environmental study for the proposed corridor began in early 2004. That study is near completion.

Developers interested in answering the strategic partner call have until June 7th to submit their detailed proposals to the Texas Transportation Commission.

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