Region thanks Cruz for legislation to number interstates

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to the crowd attending an event celebrating the numbering of I-27 and I-14 Tuesday at the Bush Convention Center. (Photo by The Oilfield Photographer)

MIDLAND Officials from across West Texas gathered Tuesday at the Bush Convention Center to thank Sen. Ted Cruz for getting legislation through Congress that will upgrade existing roads to interstate highways.

The legislation is for interstates 14 and 27. The legislation for I-14 was signed into law last year and the one for I-27 was signed the week of March 18.

James Beauchamp, president of the Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance, said this will connect 19 of the top 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), which is vitally important.

It was previously designated as an interstate about a year ago, but it didn’t include a number.

Cruz, a ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said I-27 will run from Laredo north through West Texas through the Panhandle, through Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico and all the way to Canada.

The bill passed last week is specially to number the new corridor I-27 so that the Texas Department of Transportation can put up the signs designating it as a future route of what’s going to be I-27.

“It’s important for building the support and momentum for the funding to ultimately build this as a full-on interstate,” Cruz said.

He added that TxDOT conducted a comprehensive study of the Ports to Plains Corridor and they found that upgrades would result in a 76 percent return on investment — $3.4 billion in annual travel cost savings, 17,710 jobs, new jobs, and a $2.2 billion annual increase in state GDP.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to Juandelle Lacy of the Texas Federation of Republican Women before speaking to those attending a news conference on numbering I-27 and I-14 Tuesday at the Bush Convention Center. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

Lauren Garduno of Ports to Plains said the I-27 corridor touches about $12 billion in the cattle industry, about 40 percent of the nation’s cotton goes to the ports of Laredo, Eagle Pass and Del Rio.

“So we’re talking about one of the largest trade markets, Laredo being the largest port today. … It’s a big deal and having Sen. Cruz (R-Texas) champion that for us (is) an amazing and wonderful thing,” Garduno said.

Brenda Gunter, mayor of San Angelo, said when they talk about economic development they use the words fuel, food and fiber.

“It’s $11 billion worth of agriculture products, 12 of the 20 best meat markets are here in this corridor,” Gunter said. “We are important in the cattle, the cotton and the dairy markets. We do the produce, the food, the fiber and the fuel that takes care of the citizens of the state of Teas and provides national security for the United States of America,” Gunter added. “We might not be big in numbers, but we’re big in the numbers where it costs. When we look at national security, providing the food the country, the nation and the world needs, as well as the fiber and the fuel.”

Odessa Mayor Javier Joven said things like this can be done with regional cooperation.

Cruz said infrastructure dollars should follow need.

“And need is here, in terms of population, in terms of commerce, in terms of agriculture, in terms of livestock, in terms of oil and gas,” he said.

U..S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, mingles with attendees at an event celebrating the numbering of I-27 and I-14 Tuesday at the Bush Convention Center. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

“It’s been a long 31-year journey at this point, but from our perspective with the interstate 27 connection with I-14 deal that we did previously. That puts us at the precipice of multiple interstates from Midland and Odessa. That’s particularly important as we look at warehousing distribution, being more of that, more of a transportation hub and also sustaining our energy industry,” Beauchamp said.

He added that they are all existing roads, but this is an upgrade to an interstate.

“Generally, that’s really hard to put a price tag on because No. 1 as you build it you figure out how much it’s going to cost … It’s hard to estimate that,” Beauchamp said.

The roads will be four-lane divided highway with added structures. He said this will make the roads safer.

Beauchamp said Cruz sponsored the bills for both interstates.

“This is kind of our thank you to him for helping us through all these efforts,” he added.

State Sen. Kevin Sparks, R-Midland, said this is a great plan that has been in the works for many years.

“But it’s a needed step in order to connect all of the commerce across Texas. The oil and gas industry continues to play a major role, not just for Texas but for the rest of the nation and then also our agricultural industry needing to be able to connect not only to the rest of Texas, but also north to the rest of the nation. It’s really a good day for not only West Texas, but I think for the whole country,” Sparks said.

State Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, agreed saying the interstate designation will be great for West Texas.

“It gives us an easier situation from the top of the Panhandle down and coming in where it’s going to take in Midland and Odessa, not just go through Big Spring and down because that’s where a big chunk of the population is on our side of it. … I think getting the federal part in there is really a major thing for us,” Craddick said.