WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation to expand the Interstate-14 corridor farther into West Texas and into the states of Louisiana and Mississippi was introduced last week by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville).
The legislation known as the "I-14 Expansion and Improvement Act of 2018," would expand the original designation of the Central Texas Corridor as the future I-14. That highway designation was originally proposed by Babin as part of the 2015 FAST Act highway bill.
The original bill called for I-14 to generally follow the current path of U.S. 190 from its intersection with I-10 in West Texas, east though Killeen, Bryan-College Station, Huntsville, Livingston, Woodville, Jasper to the Louisiana border. At present, only about a 25-mile segment in the Killeen-Fort Hood area exists but the bill calls for its eventual extension.
Also known as the "Forts to Ports" bill, the original legislation was designed to improve access between major U.S. Army installations at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Fort Hood and Fort Polk in Louisiana and the Texas strategic deployment seaports that support them – the Port of Corpus Christi and the Port of Beaumont.
The expansion proposed in the 2018 legislation introduced last week directly addresses routes leading to the Port of Beaumont. Both U.S. 69 from Woodville to Beaumont and U.S. 96 from Jasper to Beaumont would be added to the proposed interstate corridor system.
The Port of Corpus Christi would connect to the proposed I-14 route with existing interstate highways including I-10, I-37 and I-35
Also added are extensions to the corridor in West Texas. One segment would run off the proposed I-14 route from Brady through San Angelo, which hosts Goodfellow Air Force Base, to the Midland-Odessa area. Another segment would run from Eden south through Menard (on the proposed I-14 corridor) to Junction where it will intersect with I-10.
The bill also would extend the I-14 route by adding a Central Louisiana Corridor, which runs from the Leesville area through the vicinity of Alexandria to the Mississippi River at Vidalia, La. From there, the bill would create the Central Mississippi Corridor, which would route I-14 through the vicinity of Natchez, Brookhaven and Laurel, Miss. where it would end at an intersection with I-59.
Along its Louisiana route, the corridor would serve Fort Polk and Camp Beauregard and near the end of its Mississippi route is Camp Shelby.
Babin, a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, said that connecting key military installations in these states to strategic seaports would enhance their readiness and efficiency as envisioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he first commissioned America's interstate highway system in 1956.
Under the new bill, the proposed interstate route is designated using the general pattern of existing roads and highways but leaves the final determination about the exact path of the route with state and local officials who know their communities best, Babin said.
"One of President Dwight Eisenhower's top priorities and greatest accomplishments was the construction of an interstate highway system that connects America's military assets, businesses and communities from coast to coast. The legislation we introduced today is a complement to that legacy," Babin said.
"I-14 is already known as the 'Forts to Ports' highway, and we are building on that success with further improvements, including a nonstop interstate connection from Goodfellow Air Force base in West Texas to the strategic seaport in Beaumont," he added. "And of course, it will finally give countless communities access to the benefits of an interstate highway, with a design and implementation process run by state and local transportation authorities, not Washington bureaucrats."
The legislation has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) has recently announced plans for legislation to carry out President Donald Trump's call for action on a comprehensive national infrastructure bill. Joining Babin as original cosponsors of the bill were Reps. Mike Conaway (TX-11), John Carter (TX-31), Roger Williams (TX-25), Kevin Brady (TX-8), Mike Johnson (LA-4), Ralph Abraham (LA-5), and Gregg Harper (MS-3).