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TxDOT official: I-69 two decades away
by Tim Delaney
Mar 21, 2013 | 2227 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marc Williams, Texas Department of Transportation director of planning administration, from left, explains the timeline for Interstate 69 through or around Refugio. Mayor Rey Jaso and Refugio Chamber of Commerce Director Lenny Anzaldua listen, as did an audience of about 30 people on Monday, March 18, at City Hall. Williams said I-69 construction at Refugio is about 20 years away
Marc Williams, Texas Department of Transportation director of planning administration, from left, explains the timeline for Interstate 69 through or around Refugio. Mayor Rey Jaso and Refugio Chamber of Commerce Director Lenny Anzaldua listen, as did an audience of about 30 people on Monday, March 18, at City Hall. Williams said I-69 construction at Refugio is about 20 years away
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REFUGIO – Despite what former Refugio Community Development Foundation Director Joe Arredondo said in a meeting Feb. 20, a Texas Department of Transportation official on March 18 said Interstate 69 is about 20 years away for Refugio.

Arredondo had told the Foundation that I-69 was three to five years away. He later resigned that same night.

Refugio Mayor Rey Jaso called the informational meeting to set the I-69 timeline straight.

Present at the meeting were TxDOT Director of Planning Administration Marc Williams and others from TxDOT.

Williams said that, during the past three or four years, about $700 million was invested in I-69.

“There’s about $8 billion statewide in priorities,” he said, “probably the better part of two decades to complete all of it.”

Williams said 50 to 60 miles out of Houston have been officially designated.

Some misunderstanding that I-69 is a new name for the defunct Trans Texas Corridor was cleared up, too.

The TTC was stricken from law and does not exist, according to Williams.

The TTC was a project that would have grabbed wide swaths of private land, and landowners and others fought the project and defeated it.

“What we heard from all communities is to use existing alignments,” Williams said. And that is the I-69 plan.

From Houston, I-69 would follow U.S. Highway 59, which is a stretch of four lanes of divided highway to Victoria.

However, at Victoria, I-69 would fork, going south to Brownsville on U.S. Highway 77 – also four lanes and divided – and west and southwest on U.S Highway 59 to Laredo, which is a two-lane highway.

Williams said about 70 miles of I-69 is making progress in the Harlingen, Brownsville, McAllen area.

“It is the largest area not served by an interstate,” he said.

Another priority is to get I-69 to Victoria.

Williams said Refugio was not in the recommendations of the citizens committee but that TxDOT will work with the city of Refugio and Refugio County depending where they are in the planning process.

At some points along I-69, relief routes are being planned and developed. An example is Sinton. Also, annexation is being considered.

Currently, there are no relief routes being considered by TxDOT around Refugio, according to Rickey Dailey, TxDOT public information officer, communications division.

Williams said projected costs for upgrading existing alignments is $20 to $30 million a mile.

But building and upgrading existing highways like U.S. Highway 77 through Refugio would cost $50 million a mile because of rights of way, utilities and other hurdles.

“The length might be shorter,” he said.

Refugio County Judge Rene Mascorro said it was “difficult to determine what the plan is today.”

He said there wasn’t enough information, but he proposed to start having community meetings to discuss what to do.

Asked about traffic to Refugio, Bill Reihmann of TxDOT said he’s been working in Refugio over the years.

“Refugio is big enough to where it is located in relation to Victoria (and Corpus Christi) and uniquely centered,” Reihmann said.

“I think people will continue to stop no matter what happens,” he said.

“I’m not interested in I-69. I was against it,” Jaso said.

Jaso said he loved the traffic coming through Refugio. He noted that the city gets $72,000 to $76,000 in sales tax every month.

Williams said he didn’t know how much traffic will stop in Refugio off a future I-69, but that TxDOT would work carefully with the county and city to make sure the area is served.

Jaso said he would fight I-69 and would not allow it under his watch as mayor.

A question was asked if I-69 was coming through Refugio if Refugio could say no to the project.

Williams said I-69 and U.S. Highway 77 was designated by Congress.

He said at some point, the city and county will have to address what they want to do.

Williams said environmental studies are usually done seven years before construction. He also said an east or west bypass has not been determined.

So it would be five to six years before TxDOT gets to the point where it is ready to build the project, Williams noted.

Judge Mascorro said the first step for the city and county would be to talk with the public and discuss where it would want the bypass and build a future plan around the consensus.

Williams said to search online for “Driven By Texans” and the public could find out the findings of the citizens committees addressing I-69.
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