Hutchison gets federal money for I-69

Link to story here.

A contract has been awarded to ACS of Spain to develop the entire Trans Texas Corridor TTC-69 trade corridor, but it has yet to be signed. TxDOT has now re-named the project back to I-69 to make the public think it’ll be a free interstate. Hutchison is seeking federal funding to ensure the project remains a FREE federal interstate not to continue Rick Perry’s foreign-owned toll road, land-grabbing Trans Texas Corridor debacle.

Hutchison secures half-million dollars to finance I-69 project

The Lufkin Daily News

Sunday, August 02, 2009

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced half a million dollars in funding Friday toward building a massive highway project Lufkin’s mayor said could be the city’s single largest economic development factor.

Hutchison (R-TX), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced approval of the funding through the Fiscal Year 2010 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, according to a press release. The bill’s next step is consideration by the full Senate.

The I-69 Corridor is a nationwide transportation plan for a route running from Mexico through Texas and up to Canada.

The Texas portion of the I-69 project — formerly the Trans-Texas Corridor, Gov. Rick Perry’s mammoth plan to link the state in freeways, rail and utility routes — was pronounced dead in January after heavy public backlash against the proposed plan which would have required new infrastructure trails cutting across the state. That plan has been separated into smaller corridor and local infrastructure development plans.

“It really upset a large number of people. The map of possibilities looked like it was going through everybody’s backyard,” said Lufkin’s Mayor Jack Gorden. “Now it’s back on track, for the most part sticking to the existing right-of-way for U.S. 59.”

Gorden is on the I-69 state level committee and on the executive board of the I-69 Alliance, representing cities, counties and other interested parties from Laredo to Texarkana.

Access to the interstate is one of the top priorities for businesses, and Gorden’s preference is for the route to stay right on U.S. Highway 59 — through that highway’s current path. Other ideas over the years have included an S-shaped curve skirting Lufkin’s south side by a few miles, turning north at Diboll or as far south as Corrigan.

Gorden said an interstate just south of Lufkin would be fine as well, likening it to the benefits Tyler sees in its proximity to I-20.

“If it can be built, it can be the single largest economic development factor for Lufkin in all of Deep East Texas,” Gorden said.

Gorden said Hutchison’s continuing efforts ensures more steps will be taken to move the project forward.

“If they can get the environmentals finished, it will be in a position to actually seriously get laid down and hopefully built,” Gorden said.

A town hall meeting in Nacogdoches last week allowed local residents to voice their questions to a panel of state and regional officials, the (Nacogdoches) Daily Sentinel reported. The discussion centered around the I-69 Corridor and whether the Trans-Texas Corridor was gone for good.

Amadeo Saenz, TxDOT executive director, said then that the state was “in essence” not working on looking at the entire TTC, but was going to look at building I-69, to “build what needs to be built.”

The state would be relying on segment committees to work with locals on identifying regional needs in order to determine where construction would take place, he said.

Critic Larry Shelton said in July he was concerned the project would leave other important local projects on the back burner, including the congested south loop in Nacogdoches that is one of the high-priority projects within the Lufkin TxDOT District.

TxDOT on Friday announced an upcoming regional citizen advisory group meeting to discuss I-69 development. The meeting is set for 9:30 a.m. until noon Wednesday at the Polk County Economic Development/Chamber of Commerce Center, 1001 U.S. Highway 59 Loop north, Livingston. Angelina County will be represented by Jerry Huffman. Lufkin/Angelina Economic Development Corp. will be represented by Jim Wehmeier. Diboll will be represented by Mayor Bill Brown.

Gorden on Friday said the meeting and others like it were an improvement for citizens to have input, something he said TTC never offered.

“I hope they can make some serious progress for us. It had gone away, and now it’s got a little life again,” he said.