The Texas Legislature has voted to send to the governor a bill that is intended to help improve the movements of goods and services from Mexico into the western United States and ultimately into Canada.
The bill, HB1079, would require the Texas Department of Transportation to study the “feasibility of certain improvements” to extend Interstate 27.
Advocates say the extension of I-27 would make more economic sense and help relieve congestion more effectively than proposals to make improvements along I-35.
If signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Ports-to-Plains advisory committee would be set up to study the extension effort. As outlined in the bill, the group would meet twice annually to discuss the project. The panel would be made up of citizens and officials that include ports, chambers of commerce, and the trucking industry.
Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said the extension project would help to alleviate congestion on I-35.
“It is a long distance from I-35 to any legitimate north-south corridor reaching up to Canada, or to Mexico. We are woefully in need of developing those north-south corridors,” Perry said during a recent hearing.
He added that the advisory council called for in HB1079 could help get discussion started to gain federal transportation support.
Multiple regional committees would make up the Ports-to-Plains Advisory Committee. Each regional committee would study such issues as congestion relief and freight movement, as well as how to maximize the use of existing highways “to the greatest extent possible.”
Extensions of I-27 would be studied from its northern terminus to Dumas, Texas; from Dumas to Stratford, Texas; and from Stratford to the Oklahoma line. Also studied would be extension from its northern terminus to Dumas; from Dumas to Dalhart, Texas; and from Dalhart to the New Mexico line.
Additionally, extension of I-27 would be studied from its southern terminus to I-20; from I-20 to I-10; and from I-10 to the Laredo port of entry.
TxDOT would be required to submit a report on study results to the governor and the Texas Legislature by Jan. 1, 2021.
Figures previously provided by TxDOT show the estimated cost for the I-27 extension would be about $7 billion.
“When you are trying to get commerce and get traffic moved off (I-35), it is a pretty good investment,” Perry said.
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