It’s wasn’t officially declared Senator Ted Cruz Day in the Permian Basin, but political leaders in Odessa and Midland on Thursday cheered the Texas senator for his role in resuscitating efforts to construct a new Interstate 14 corridor that would stretch from Texas to Georgia.
Cruz and Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock, recently joined forces to submit an amendment that would extend the proposed corridor to Odessa. Their amendment received unanimous bipartisan support from the Senate.
“We’re here to honor Senator Ted Cruz, who has never been the poster child for bipartisan relationships,” joked MOTRAN President James Beauchamp, during a press conference held at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. “This is really damn amazing.”
Cruz, who laughed at the good-natured ribbing, admitted that he often doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his political counterparts. But, he added, when Democrats and Republicans can come together, “great things can get done.”
Cruz said he and Warnock joined forces because they both realized the corridor can create more jobs and boost the economies of both states.
If the proposed infrastructure bill is eventually approved, the corridor expansion would connect the Permian Basin to U.S. military installations and seaports, including the Port of Savannah, which is the third-largest port in the U.S., Cruz said.
The corridor would also provide a more direct access for oil and other energy industries, Cruz added.
“I’m extremely pleased that the Senator stepped up and helped us achieve this goal,” said Odessa City Councilman Tom Sprawls, who attended Thursday’s press conference.
Permian Basin Petroleum Association President Ben Shepperd added: “Today we’re here to celebrate. The days of the oil business is far from over.”
Cruz and Beauchamp cautioned that the proposed expansion of Interstate 14 is still many years off. In addition to needing final approval from the Senate and The House, funding will also need to be acquired.
Beauchamp said it’s still not known how much the entire project will cost to complete. But he noted that much of the infrastructure is already in place for the Permian Basin portion.
“If you were to build a new Interstate from scratch it would cost $10-10.5 billion per mile,” Beauchamp said. Because the current infrastructure is already in place, hundreds of millions of dollars will be saved in the Permian Basin.
Such a project will require a combination of federal and state dollars, Beauchamp and Cruz said.
The proposed Interstate 14 expansion would now extend through five states including Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Cruz said he has visited Odessa and Midland many times during the past couple years to speak with community leaders about the feasibility of including the Permian Basin in the proposed corridor expansion.
He called the Odessa/Midland area one of the most entrepreneurial areas in Texas, trailing only Houston.
Cruz said he committed himself to the effort even after community leaders told him their dreams of the corridor were on “life support.”
“I told them, ‘Almost dead, is not dead,’” said Cruz, quoting from a scene in the movie Princess Bride. A jovial Cruz then re-enacted about five minutes from the movie to the delight of those in attendance.