Public urged to drive I-69 development


June 28, 2011 at 1:28 a.m.

Proposed Interstate 69 could make a beeline through the Crossroads, and public input is important to make it happen, an economic development leader said Tuesday.

Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., spoke Tuesday at the Victoria Partnership meeting about the importance of I-69.

The portion of the interstate through the Crossroads includes Victoria and runs south from Harris County, to Bee and Refugio counties.

The Segment Three Committee, a group of professionals who live in the affected area, recommended running the interstate through U.S. Highways 59 and 77 according to an I-69 pamphlet.

When possible, the interstate would retain the existing right-of-way, the pamphlet said. Some areas, such as those that are too narrow, would require improvements, it said, and the committee recommended relief routes to minimize impact on communities and preserve property.

Although the committee developed a preliminary plan, it welcomes public comment, said Fowler, a committee member. Comments received will go on to Texas Department of Transportation personnel and other segment committees.

Ideally, by late July or early August, enough residents will have commented that a consensus is evident, said Ray Miller, the city of Victoria's deputy director of development services, who also sits on the segment committee.

From there, the committee will report to the Texas Transportation Commission and, depending on results, possibly get the ball rolling on Segment Three.

It is unclear exactly where along the segment the project would begin, he added.

Statewide, I-69 will cost an estimated $16.4 billion, according to a map of the project. Segment Three will cost about $3.5 billion.

There is no current funding to build I-69, but designating existing suitable freeway sections as I-69 would establish the interstate and, from there, state leaders can begin the search for funding.

The interstate offers multiple benefits, Fowler said.

Those include improving emergency evacuations because of greater traffic capacity; safer travel, because interstates typically see 20 to 30 percent fewer accidents than state highways; improved travel time; and the ability to accommodate heavier traffic flow.

Economic development is another key factor, Fowler said, explaining that access in and out of a city, as well as to major ports, is important to large companies.

"Companies in other countries, and even in other states, look at a map of Texas and don't see Victoria," he said, explaining that many feel they cannot set up shop in a city without interstate access. "It's significant for economic development."

Fowler urged residents to voice their opinions, either online or by mailing in a completed comment card.

"Public input will be vital," he said.



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