Move over Interstate 49 ... There's some major competition on the horizon when it comes to North - South travel. I-69 is set to become one of the biggest federal interstate projects and it's going to pass right through the Arklatex. It's one of the most aggressive grassroots efforts for improving the economy throughout our area. KTBS 3's East Texas reporter Keristen Holmes was in Austin for I-69 day at the State Capitol, where officials were updated on the progress of the future interstate. I69 will connect Canada to Mexico bringing with it jobs and economic growth. In the capital city of Texas, officials say they're working to make sure I69 comes through our area.
John Thompson is the I-69 Alliance Chairman. He said, "It's amazingly important, not only to Texas but to the United States. Through Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and up into Canada. Once that whole corridor is built, all of us along that corridor will have an opportunity to reap some economic benefits." That's why the I-69 Alliance of Texas met with legislators this week at the capitol. They say it's key to drive home the significance of the interstate and how it will boost the economy along its route among other things. House Representative Chris Paddie said, "Anyone who's traveled up and down US 59 knows about congestion in certain areas and so this is something that is critically important in the long term future of East Texas and we need to make sure we continue to enjoy that economic development and create, build and invest in infrastructure to support it."
But in this tough economy the team is looking for creative ways to make sure the project is funded. Jeff Austin is a Commissioner with TxDOT. He said, "We're looking at parts of existing roadway that already meet and are up to interstate standards, so we're looking at existing roadway and looking to convert it to interstate." East Texas lawmakers say if you build it, they will come, and they are big business. Texas State Senator Robert Nichols said, "There are so many industries, manufactoring and distribution centers that will not consider relocating unless they have access to an interstate."
A project as big as I-69 takes money, and lots of it. But officials in Austin say they'll continue to find cost effective ways to make sure I-69 revives the economy of the Arklatex. Most of the proposed i-69 route in texas already exists as four lane highways along US Highway 59. I-69 is expected head for Louisiana from Carthage Texas, with a spur continuing north to Texarkana along highway 59. Once in Louisiana it's expected to travel near Stonewall .. and cross I-49 and I-20 near Haughton .. heading towards El Dorado Arkansas. Officials in Northwest Louisiana say the ecological studies have been completed and they are that much closer to seeing a piece I-69 as a reality in our area.