President and CEO of the Texas Economic Development Corporation (TxEDC). TxEDC’s mission is to promote Texas as the premier state to locate or expand the business and to offer insight and key resources to advisers and decision-makers. Follow Robert and TxEDC on Twitter at @GoBiginTexas.
I-27 expansion to be game-changer for Texas trade
In Texas, a state that encompasses 268,597 square miles — more territory than the country of France — a network of more than 313,000 miles of public highways helps stitch together an impressive economic network.
The thousands of miles of highway in Texas represent billions of dollars in economic impact. Without our robust highway system, commerce in Texas would crawl along like rush-hour traffic.
Fortunately, with the planned north-south Interstate 27, the state’s highway system is growing, which means even more economic opportunities.
In March, sections of the future I-27 in Texas were designated part of the interstate highway system. This represents a major step in securing money for the project.
Promoters of the project point out that it’ll drive up Texas’s GDP by an estimated $17.2 billion and create 178,000 construction jobs, as well as add 17,000 long-term job opportunities along the new I-27 corridor.
“Establishing a four-lane federal highway for I-27 is a game-changer for our economy and quality of life in West Texas for decades to come,” U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock said, “and will strengthen our food security and energy independence for the entire country.”
Arrington joined U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of San Antonio in sponsoring the Ports-to-Plains Highway Act of 2021, which paved the way for federal designation of the new I-27. Original co-sponsors of the legislation are U.S. Reps. Ronny Jackson, Tony Gonzales and Kay Granger, all of Texas, and U.S. Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota.
A key component of the long-envisioned Ports-to-Plains Corridor, the project will expand the existing Lubbock-to-Amarillo route of I-27; that route measures nearly 125 miles. The I-27 extension will stretch from Laredo through the Texas Panhandle, and eventually to the Canadian border, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
Aside from pumping up the Texas economy, the new four-lane I-27 should help relieve congestion on other vital arteries in the state, including I-35. In all, 16 interstate highways crisscross Texas.
The Ports-to-Plains Corridor has been in the works for more than two decades, but it has gained considerable momentum since 2019. That year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a measure directing the Texas Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of expanding I-27. A bill signed last year by Gov. Abbott established an I-27 advisory committee.
The new federal designation for I-27 enables “enhancement of infrastructure for domestic and international markets, creates safer roads for leisure and business travels, and connects underrepresented communities throughout the [corridor] with outside markets,” said John Osborne, chairman of the Ports-to-Plains Alliance as well as president and CEO of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and Market Lubbock.
The 2,300-mile Ports-to-Plains Corridor runs from Mexico to Canada, crossing through Texas and seven other states. The corridor’s economic strengths include energy, agriculture and international trade.
Simply put, the I-27 and the entire Ports-to-Plains Corridor will be a boon for Texas. Texas stands to reap billions of dollars in economic gains from this venture for decades to come. This is the kind of forward-thinking project that will help ensure Texas remains the best state in which to live, work and play.