Regional transportation officials have begun a process they hope someday will result in a new Bowie County highway.
The Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority last week allocated $350,000 toward studying the feasibility of a spur from the future Interstate 369—now U.S. Highway 59—west and north through Red River Army Depot and TexAmericas Center to Interstate 30.
The Texarkana, Texas, City Council voted Monday to contribute $25,000 toward $100,000 in matching funds for the study. NET RMA is asking Bowie County, TexAmericas and other stakeholders for the remainder of the matching funds, Andrea Williams-McCoy told the council. Last year, Bowie County Judge James Carlow appointed Williams-McCoy and Cory Floyd to be the county's representatives on the NET RMA board of directors.
"This will be the first solid step of getting engineers to look at the environmentals, the costs, acquisition of right of way and all the things that go into it," city Economic Developer Jerry Sparks told the council.
The Texarkana region should act now to accommodate an increase in freight traffic anticipated once U.S. 59 becomes I-369, Williams-McCoy said. Once complete, I-369 will connect the future Interstate 69 in Shelby County to Texarkana along the U.S. 59 corridor. Construction of I-369 is in the planning and development stage.
"Because U.S. 59 has such an organic amount of very heavy freight traffic—we have timber and a number of other industries that have used that forever—we have a really high portion of traffic on U.S. 59 before it ever becomes part of 69.
"Then when you add in factors like TexAmericas and the depot and other industries around here, there's no question that we're going to see a tremendous amount of (freight traffic), and planning for that can't happen, you know, a year before you start having a problem," Williams-McCoy said.
Carlow agreed that the time is right to begin studying the project, as the next segment of I-369 to be planned is between Queen City and Texarkana, where the proposed northwestward spur would originate. The concept is for the county to eventually donate to the state the land on which the spur would be built.
Carlow gave his comments while accepting from Mayor Bob Bruggeman a certificate that recognized his decades-long work on regional transportation and economic development.
Local cooperation will be key to achieving the spur's construction, Floyd said.
"When we're able to go to the NET RMA and tell them that we have a project that has both retail significance, state and national significance, but also local support from individuals such as yourself, it really increases our level of success," he said.
Regional Mobility Authorities are transportation agencies in Texas meant to give local governments more control over planning and project construction. One or more counties may form an RMA. The state legislature first authorized RMAs in 2001.
NET RMA formed in 2004, and Bowie County joined in 2007. NET RMA's 12 counties are Bowie, Cherokee, Gregg, Harrison, Kaufman, Panola, Rusk, Smith, Titus, Upshur, Van Zandt and Wood.
NET RMA collects revenues from a toll road around Tyler, Texas, called Toll 49, and those revenues funded the feasibility study, Williams-McCoy said.
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