The Ports-to-Plains corridor would encompass 2,300 miles starting in Mexico and extending to Colorado and eventually Canada. It would enter the United States in Laredo. The route would include San Angelo, Midland-Odessa, and Lubbock, before exiting the state after passing through Amarillo.
Laredo is the top inland port in the United States with over $230 billion in trade traversing the border there annually.
Over 14,000 trailers cross the border in Laredo daily. With the USMCA, the newly negotiated trade deal with Mexico and Canada having taken effect on July 1, trade is likely to increase further.
In addition, oil and gas production in West Texas is a significant component of the Texas economy.
“This direct access will allow for more production and distribution of these resources,” the Ports-to-Plains Alliance advances on its website.
“Designating the Ports-to-Plains Corridor as an interstate would have a positive effect on not only the 26 counties along the corridor, but across the entire state of Texas and the country as a whole. No state in the union has more invested in trade with our neighbors than Texas, and due to the USMCA Trade agreement, trade between Mexico and Canada has increased substantially, benefitting Texas farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and small businesses,” Cruz commented in a press release.
Cornyn is supportive of the possibility, stating, “Texas is already the largest state exporter of goods, and adding an artery connecting us to Mexico and Canada will mean better access to markets for Texas farmers, ranchers, and producers.”
The highway expansion is projected to increase Texas’ gross domestic product by $55.6 billion, add 17,710 new jobs, decrease the crash rate by 21 percent, and save $450 million in safety improvements, according to an Interstate Feasibility Study conducted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT).
“Upgrading this corridor would allow for millions of dollars in travel savings for businesses and increase access for the 2.2 million Texas jobs dependent on international trade,” Cruz added.
The House version of the legislation was proposed in June by a bipartisan contingent of Texas Congressional representatives. It was referred to the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, but no further action has been taken on it.
If the legislation doesn’t pass this term, it would have to be re-filed after a new Congress is sworn in on January 12, 2021.
The project has been in the works for over a decade. The corridor has been designated by Congress as a high priority since 1998, and a corridor development and management plan was published in 2004.
In 2015, a TXDOT assessment for extending and upgrading I-27 to interstate standards would cost about $7.1 billion.
The 86th Texas Legislature commissioned a feasibility study to be carried out, and a final report is due to TXDOT by October 31, 2020. The Ports-to-Plains Advisory Committee held six meetings, several of which were converted to virtual meetings after the coronavirus restrictions began.
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Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.