TxDOT Moves Forward on Study for Interstate 27 Extension From Lubbock to Laredo
SAN ANGELO, TX — Efforts to extend Interstate 27 received a significant boost today as the Texas Transportation Commission approved a plan that recommends feasibility study for extending I-27 from Lubbock to Laredo.
“This is a big step for Ports-to-Plains and our goal to extend I-27. We commend the Transportation Commission and the Texas Freight Advisory Committee for recognizing that the Texas freight network has a significant gap without a major north-south interstate highway west of I-35, and taking action to meet the need,” said San Angelo Mayor and Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board Member Brenda Gunter.
On Oct. 24, Gunter reported to the City of San Angelo Development Corporation board meeting that getting I-27 built will be a long and challenging road and there are very limited funds available to see the project through as one large, one time infrastructure project. Gunter was reporting what she learned at the 2017 Ports-to-Plains conference held in Lubbock a month earlier.
In 2015, TxDOT estimated the cost for building an interstate from Laredo through San Angelo and Lubbock to Denver is $7 billion. COSA-DC board member John Bariou, who attended the Ports-to-Plains conference in September with Gunter, said officials there told him the I-27 expansion is estimated to cost the same amount as building a new aircraft carrier. In 2016, aircraft carrier U.S.S. Gerald R Ford was commissioned. It cost $13 billion.
The cost and scope are downsized. The 500 miles of roadway for an extension of I-27 from Lubbock to Laredo is estimated to be $5.2 billion, The Texas Freight Mobility Plan 2017 states.
The 2017 Plan lists I-27 from Lubbock to Laredo as a Strategic Freight Project. The plan defined Strategic Freight and Initiative recommendations as “significant investments that will shape the state's future freight transportation demands as well as address current unmet needs. Some strategic projects rise to a higher level due to the potential impact they have on statewide freight movements and economic competitiveness.
The Texas Freight Advisory Committee played a key role in identifying priority strategic projects and initiatives based on current and future freight volumes, trends and economic opportunities.”
The Texas Freight Mobility Plan states, “The Ports-to-Plains (I-27) corridor from Laredo to Denver was designated as a high-priority corridor on the National Highway System in 1998, and in 2015, a TxDOT initial assessment report on the I-27 corridor found it to be critical to linking the energy and agricultural sectors to state, national and international trade. The I-27 extension would provide the only major north-south corridor in Texas west of I-35, and it would intersect three major east-west routes: I-10, I-20 and I-40. The I-27 extension would upgrade approximately 500 miles from Lubbock to Laredo at a conceptual cost estimate of $5.2 billion. TxDOT has recommended more detailed study of the extension to determine whether an incremental improvement approach or a complete interstate facility approach would meet safety and mobility needs. ”
“Extending Interstate 27 will have a significant impact on economic development throughout West Texas, and it will improve the flow of freight throughout North America,” said Ports-to-Plains Alliance President Michael Reeves. “About two thirds of US-Mexico trade by truck goes through Laredo, and much of that freight moves through some of Texas’ largest metropolitan areas on the very congested Interstate 35. I-69 provides an alternative for some of those trucks heading to the northeast, and I-27 can provide a less congested alternative for freight heading northwest.”
TxDOT has been working since August 2016 to develop the Texas Freight Mobility Plan (TFMP) 2017 that meets all Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act requirements. The first Texas Freight Mobility Plan was adopted by the Texas Transportation Commission in January 2016. In December 2015, MAP-21 (the former federal funding and authorization bill) was replaced by the FAST Act. The FAST Act provided a new freight focused funding program, the National Highway Freight Program (NHFP), and also created new requirements for state freight plans to have in place by December 2017 in order to qualify for the NHFP funding.
These new requirements include:
- creation of Critical Rural Freight Corridors,
- creation of Critical Urban Freight Corridors, and
- development of a fiscally constrained freight investment plan.
A section of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor, US 87 between Big Spring and San Angelo, was designated as a Critical Rural Freight Corridor by the Plan.
As Gunter said in October, the I-27 plan will likely be completed in a series of smaller bites instead of one huge infrastructure project. Today’s TxDOT announcement is one of those small bites.
Ports-to-Plains Executive Director Michael Reeves contributed to this article.