Conexión Del Rio/Staff report

AUSTIN, TEXAS – While development of Interstate 14 across Texas will take decades, momentum for improvement projects in the corridor is building and has support from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

Representatives of two dozen communities that make up the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition gathered in Austin this week to hear about current and future highway transportation needs, including the fact that improved highways add military value to bases in Texas and Louisiana.

The first 25-mile segment of US 190 is now part of the Interstate Highway System. It runs from Interstate 35 in Belton to Copperas Cove and provides direct access to the main gate at Fort Hood in Killeen. A celebration is being planned in the coming months to unveil the first I-14 signs.

For more than a decade the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition has been advocating for improved highway connections between U.S. Army facilities at Fort Hood, Fort Bliss and Fort Polk and the strategic military deployment ports at Beaumont and Corpus Christi. Such improvements increase the military value of those installations as they perform their assigned mission.

“Since the Interstate Highway System was designated initially as a defense highway system, it only makes sense that with a military installation like Fort Hood, we would want to make sure that it is tied and connected directly to our interstate system,” TxDOT Deputy Executive Director Marc Williams told the group during the Coalition’s annual meeting.

In 2015, the Congress created the Central Texas Corridor generally along the US 190 route and designated it as future I-14. The Coalition and members of Congress are currently supporting additional legislation to adjust the corridor in West Texas so that it will serve San Angelo and Midland-Odessa.

Speakers during the annual meeting stressed the need for improved connectivity, particularly between the key Permian Basin oil and gas production region and seaports on the Texas Coast.

Roland Pena, economic development director for the City of San Angelo, also pointed to long-term energy development in West Texas and the importance of transportation in serving energy industry growth.

The Central Texas Corridor begins in West Texas and runs through Killeen, Bryan/College Station, Huntsville, Livingston, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe Reservation, Woodville and Jasper before crossing into Louisiana at the Sabine River near Fort Polk. John Thompson, former county judge of Polk County and board chairman of the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition, said upgrading this corridor to interstate standard will mean improved safety and traffic mobility while creating new growth opportunities for the communities in the regions served by the future interstate highway.