I-27 designated as part of the Interstate Highway System | KAMR
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Following the recent enactment of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill of 2022 by President Joe Biden, the Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021 has now become a reality, which the local authorities hope to bring in potential economy with the expansion of I-27.
The passage recognizes the Ports-to-Plains corridor from Laredo to Raton, New Mexico as an addition to the interstate highway system. A Ports-to-Plains Alliance press release said the crossing offers the opportunity “for increased federal funding to complete the I-27 Freeway Expansion Project.” The expansion will create a four-lane highway, along with other safety improvements including bypasses and loops.
According to a press release from the office of U.S. Representative Ronny Jackson Texas District 13, the law was originally introduced in March 2021. Officials view this corridor as an important trade route, particularly for agriculture and energy, the corridor global linking Mexico to Canada in eight states.
“The Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021 was signed into law yesterday, which will add 178,600 jobs and $17.2 billion to Texas GDP in its near-term construction phase,” Jackson said in a statement provided. at MyHighPlains.com on Wednesday. . “In the long term, the expansion and modernization of I-27 through the Texas Panhandle will promote growth by connecting rural areas to the federal interstate highway system, strengthen trade lanes particularly beneficial to the agricultural industry of TX-13, will increase safety and save billions in travel costs. I am proud to have worked with many of my fellow Texans to make this goal a reality for our fellow Texans. Our state is a hub for economic opportunities, and the projects that will flow from this legislation will ensure that this remains the case for years to come.
Support for the law has also been substantial at the local level. More than 70 entities, including representatives from various towns in the Texas Panhandle, as well as the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce and the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, have endorsed the law.
“The Ports to Plains Corridor has long been a shared goal of so many people, organizations and entities, not just in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle, but right across the nation,” the mayor said. City of Amarillo, Ginger Nelson, in the release. . “The way Route 66 connected the country decades ago, the Ports-Plains Corridor serves as an agricultural and economic connector stretching from Mexico to Canada, with Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle included.”
Officials expect the I-27 expansion to create about 178,000 construction jobs and eventually lead to about 17,000 long-term job opportunities along the new I-27 corridor. From this approval, each segment along the corridor will be subject to a feasibility study. However, the study of the first segment, located in the Texas Panhandle, has been completed.
With the study’s completion, Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller said many projects on I-27 are “ready to go.” However, Miller said building the first segment in the Texas Panhandle will cost between $5 billion and $6 billion and will take time to fund.
“We are ready to launch many projects on the I-27 neighborhood, especially here in the Panhandle, where (the Texas Department of Transportation) has worked very effectively with all local jurisdictions to be able to design and start construction,” said said Miller. “We are under construction with the 335 loop right now. (There remains) a lot of money to secure and this is going to be a source of funding that will help us with that.
Joe Kiely, vice president of operations for the Ports-to-Plains Alliance, said while getting the designation was a long process, the process is not over. He encourages people to get involved in this project at this point.
“When there’s an opportunity to give feedback on exactly how it’s going to be built…let (citizens) participate in that,” Kiely said. “We will publish a lot of information about these meetings once they are all organized. In Texas, the process of funding things is currently taking almost 10 years to get into the unified transportation plan. So, first it will be planning, then we will move on to construction.
Miller said this project is an exciting development for the Texas Panhandle.
“It will facilitate economic development. It’s going to facilitate growth, just growth in general,” he said. “But what I’m most excited about is that it’s going to facilitate big improvements and the safety of our people here in the Panhandle, in particular.”
At the end of the day, Kiely said he believed Amarillo residents understood the need for a project like this.
“I think the people of Amarillo understand the value that was in the highway between there and Lubbock to be able to get around and get to jobs and get to where they wanted to go,” Kiely said. . “We see this as a real opportunity to push this forward in additional directions.”
Miller said drivers shouldn’t seek construction just yet, as the project becomes part of the federal fund allocation for transportation bills from now on.