By Elsa Maxey
Whether it may eventually become known as Route 69, Interstate 69 in Fort Bend County is on the top burner with two segments in the making. “As we continue to grow, mobility initiatives such as I-69 will remain a top priority, said Jeff Wiley, Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council President and CEO in a press release about the NAFTA corridor that starts in three areas of the state’s southern tip at and near the Rio Grande running through a portion of Fort Bend County. I-69, generally following U.S. 59, will enter Fort Bend near Kendleton and continue its path north bound crossing into Harris County.
“Our County prioritizes mobility projects, and it shows,” said Commissioner James Patterson, Fort Bend County, Precinct 4, also commending the Texas Department of Transportation for expanding U.S. 59 west of the Grand Parkway. Commissioner Patterson said “the Alliance for I-69 Texas, a coalition of cities, counties, port authorities and community leaders, and its member Mayors and County leaders, has been crucial to Fort Bend County being able to spur growth with I-69.”
Nicknamed the NAFTA Superhighway, I-69 is intended to help trade with Canada and Mexico spurred by the North American Free Trade Agreement, hence the name NAFTA. I-69 is considered a strategic corridor to the state’s $1.4 trillion economy and it is expected to provide jobs and growth adding to the total assessed value of the state due to a tie-in with international trade. Also, it could attract businesses that may want to move products within the state and to other parts of the nation. Due to its proximity to seaports, I-69 is further being seen as a vital artery for exporting Texas products, and with Fort Bend so close to seaports, this may continue the developing business trend here.
Reportedly, a total of 186 miles of Texas freeways have been converted to I-69 and its connectors in the past two years. Locally, construction for two segments of the new I-69 in Fort Bend County will soon go to bid, specifically Spur 10 to FM 762 in the fourth quarter of this year; and FM 762 to SH 99 will have a construction bid expected to be awarded the first quarter of next year. One of the I-69 segments, FM 762 to SH 99/the Grand Parkway, will be eight lanes and also have feeder roads, and the other, FM 762 to Spur 10, will consist of six main lanes plus the feeder roads.
“Fort Bend County and regional leaders will continue to work with state and federal authorities on ways to keep our county moving ahead of the curve,” said Wiley. On the state scene, the Texas Department of Transportation anticipates $742 million in funded I-69 route projects to be completed over the next few years.