AUSTIN, TX — Mayor Brenda Gunter lobbied for it, and now the Interstate 27 highway through San Angelo is closer to reality. Yesterday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Texas House Bill 1079 that directs the Texas Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive study of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor from Laredo through San Angelo to the Oklahoma-Texas border north of Amarillo.
This study will also detail improvements to extend Interstate 27 to the Texas-New Mexico border.
Joining Gunter in providing legislative support were: City Manager Jared Miller, City of Amarillo; Ports-to-Plains Board Member Milton Pax, Dumas; Deputy City Manager Michelle Bonner, City of Amarillo; Councilman Steve Massengale, City of Lubbock; Mayor Larry McLellan, City of Big Spring; Chairman of Ports-to-Plains Alliance and President/CEO of Lubbock Economic Development Alliance John Osborne, Lubbock; and County Judge Steve Smith, Sutton County and Ports-to-Plains Alliance Board of Directors. While not testifying, the following provided legislative support during the hearings: President John Esparza, Texas Trucking Association; County Commissioner Bill McCay, Lubbock County; President/CEO Carlton Schwab, Texas Economic Development Council; Leticia Van de Putte, Andrade-Van De Putte & Associates (Del Rio); and Mark Vane, Husch Blackwell Strategies (Caterpillar).
The final legislation for the comprehensive study has roots in two bills: HB 1079 authored by Representative Four Price (District 88) with joint authors Representatives Ken King (District 88), John Smithee (District 86) and Drew Springer (District 68), and SB 176 authored by Senator Charles Perry (District 28). HB 1079 was amended by Representative Dustin Burrows (District 82) in the House Transportation Committee combining the extent of the study from each bill. The amended HB 1079 passed the House Transportation Committee on a vote of 9 to 0 and by the House 143 to 1.
In the Senate Transportation Committee, Senator Perry introduced a substitute HB 1079 which included the details of the study. Senator Kel Seliger (District 31) was also a co-sponsor. The substitute HB 1079 was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee 7 to 0 and was recommended for the Local Calendar where the Senate approved it. With the substitute HB 1079 approved by the Senate, it returned to the House that concurred with the substitute. Then, Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill.
This study would detail improvements to extend Interstate 27 both north and south which includes the Ports-to-Plains Corridor north of Amarillo to the Texas-Oklahoma border, to the Texas-New Mexico border, and south of Lubbock to Laredo.
Next, TxDOT will establish an Interstate 27 Advisory Committee which is comprised of the county judge, an elected county official, or the administrator of the county’s road department, as designated by the county judge, of each county along the Ports-to-Plains Corridor along with the mayor, city manager, or assistant city manager, as designated by the mayor, of Amarillo, Big Spring, Carrizo Springs, Dalhart, Del Rio, Dumas, Eagle Pass, Eldorado, Lamesa, Laredo, Lubbock, Midland, Odessa, San Angelo, Sonora, Sterling City, Stratford, and Tahoka. The advisory committee would meet at least twice each year on a rotational basis in Lubbock and San Angelo.
At the Ports-to-Plains Alliance conference in Del Rio last year, the board directed the Alliance’s primary focus upon gaining official designation for the corridor as I-27. At the conference, Jack Schenendorf, Federal Consultant, Covington & Burling LLP, told attendees that gaining I-27 designation is solely a federal task. It will need to be accomplished as an attachment to a major highway-spending bill, he said.
Although the TxDOT study cannot gain official I-27 designation, it sends a signal to the U.S. Congress that Texas is ready to move forward with it.
Also at last year’s conference, State of Texas Transportation Commissioner Alvin New, who is from San Angelo, discussed the improvements on U.S. 67 near Howard College on the northeast side of San Angelo. The conjecture was when I-27 is designated through San Angelo, that stretch of highway, built to interstate standards, could be a part of the path the highway is built through San Angelo.
Gunter cautions that the interstate will not necessarily be a single road-building project. Rather, it will be a series of roadway upgrades over various parts of the to-be-designated I-27 corridor over many decades.