DETCOG discusses projects after passage of infrastructure deal

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 3:20 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:55 PM CST
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LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - The infrastructure funding was just approved last week, but it’s not too soon for states, counties, and cities to start deciding how to spend it.

Broadband and highway projects are at the top of wish lists in Deep East Texas.

The ink is barely dry on the authorization to send out $1.2 trillion for infrastructure projects. Still, DETCOG’S executive director Lonnie Hunt is eyeing a portion for broadband expansion.

“We go where the studies take us and where the money takes us.”

Most likely broadband funding will be directed straight to the newly created Texas Broadband Development Center where funding formulas and competitive grants could be handed out.

But Hunt says he isn’t afraid to go straight to the federal source.

“It’s possible even that we might have a competing application for some of these federal programs and might be competing with the state which we really don’t want to do.”

Two factors are in DETCOG’S favor. The state broadband center was established to the legislation by East Texans, Senator Robert Nichols and State Representative Trent Ashby. And for 3 1/2 years DETCOG has been laying the groundwork for regional broadband.

“Our project is shovel-ready in that we have a preliminary network design completed,” said Hunt.

But transportation is said to be the first in line. And local transportation authorities are ready.

‘We’ve got ‘wrap ‘em and sack ‘em’ program down there in Lufkin now when money becomes available we have plans ready to go,” said Cleo Blanton III last week to a group of Nacogdoches business owners along the Highway 59 expansion in Nacogdoches.

It’s essential for local communities to be prepared, no matter the project, shared Wayne Mitchell, CEO and President of the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce.

“Like any federal program, the devil will be in the details and I think we will be monitoring that very closely.”

Projects to watch that could be funded thru the infrastructure plan are Interstate 69 movement and Interstate 14. The two corridors will intersect eventually in Polk County.

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