Ports-to-Plains: I-27 expansion signed into law with federal budget

I-27 expansion signed into law with infrastructure funds in appropriations bill
I-27 expansion signed into law with infrastructure funds in appropriations bill(KCBD)
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 4:45 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2022 at 4:55 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Texas Representatives say critical advances in the long discussed Ports-to-Plains Corridor expansion for Interstate 27 have been signed into law by President Joe Biden, included with infrastructure funding under the FY 22 omnibus appropriations bill.

The Ports-to-Plains Corridor has been an effort for decades, working to open transportation and interstate infrastructure from Colorado across northeast New Mexico and the Oklahoma panhandle, through the Texas panhandle including Lubbock and Amarillo, south through west Texas connecting to Midland and San Angelo before finally connecting to Laredo at the Texas border.

Part of funding legislation signed by President Biden on Tuesday designates the Texas and New Mexico portions of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor as a future interstate, making these portions eligible for increased funding to complete the I-27 expansion into a four-lane federal highway.

The I-27 Federal Highway expansion will provide more direct links for local energy and agricultural industries to state, national, and international trade, with an estimated $690 million per year in travel cost savings outside of the corridor. The expansion providing a new trade route will also reduce congestion on I-35 in East Texas.

According to the Ports-to-Plains Alliance, the corridor represents an expected economic benefit for the United States by adding 1.7 million jobs and a $287 billion increase in GDP, starting at three border crossings through the corridor along the Texas-Mexico border: Laredo, Eagle Pass and Del Rio.

Representative Jodey Arrington of Lubbock and Representative Henry Cuellar of Laredo, the congress members behind the Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2020, responded to the designation with excitement, saying the achievement of this project will be an immense economic win for Texas, and the United States.

In 2020, Rep. Arrington said the corridor brings an estimated cost of $25.5 billion, but would be 55 percent of the nation’s economic activity. Texas Gross Domestic Product is expected to increase by $55.6 billion in the first 20 years with this designation.

Rep. Cuellar said the I-27 expansion will grow the Texas GDP by $17.2 billion and create 178,000 construction jobs, with 17,000 long-term employment opportunities in the new I-27 corridor.

“Establishing a four lane, federal highway for I-27 is a game-changer for our economy and quality of life in West Texas for decades to come and will strengthen our food security and energy independence for the entire country,” Rep. Arrington said.

Arrington said he had three major goals when taking office in 2016: getting cotton back in the farm bill, securing a B-21 bomber at Dyess Air Force Base, and establishing a federal highway for West Texas.

“I had a lot of help from colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and I’m humbled by the opportunities this will provide for generations of West Texans,” Arrington said.

Ports-to-Plains Alliance Chairman and Lubbock Economic Development Alliance CEO John Osborne said, “the impact of this designation is tremendous as it allows for the enhancement of infrastructure for domestic and international markets, creates safer roads for leisure and business travels, and connects underrepresented communities throughout the Corridor with outside markets.”

Osborne added this designation would not have been possible without the support of congress and advocates with Hance Scarbrough, the law firm of former Texas Tech chancellor Kent Hance.

Lubbock mayor Dan Pope spoke in support, saying the I-27 designation will ultimately improve necessary infrastructure and increase safety in Texas for commerce and visitors.

“The Ports to Plains Regional effort has been ongoing for decades, and today the interstate designation for I-27 has finally been signed into law. Thank you to Congressman Jodey Arrington for his leadership on this project. This momentous achievement is due to the unwavering support from leaders like Randy Neugebauer and Robert Duncan,” Pope said. “This is a huge local, regional, and state-wide win.”

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