AP NEWS

Bill could extend I-14 to Odessa

April 16, 2019

A bill was just reintroduced into the U.S. House of Representatives that would extend the future Interstate 14 to Midland and Odessa, bringing greater connectivity to the rest of the state.

The bill, called the “I-14 Expansion and Improvement Act of 2019,” was reintroduced last week by U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Woodville). As the proposed interstate is laid out now, its west end would merge into I-10 near Iraan, while designating Highway 190 as I-14, which goes east through Fort Hood, College Station, and also travels through Louisiana before ending in Mississippi.

What the proposed bill would do would add an I-14 designation to Highway 87, traveling up from Eden through San Angelo, and then to Highway 158, where it would run concurrently with I-20 before merging with it west of Odessa.

The I-14 designation would be a great success for the Permian Basin Region for economic development and infrastructural reasons, Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance Vice President Dustin Fawcett said.

“Economically, anytime you get an interstate to come through, you will see economic booms,” Fawcett said.

If Odessa has both I-20 and I-14 going through it, that increases the chance of businesses choosing to go to Odessa, based off of factors like population growth, Fawcett said. Additionally, because the Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining roadways, it will bring a more targeted interest to those designated roads, like Highways 158 and 87, to make sure they are up to an interstate standard, which means more priority and state funding would be given to these roads.

The last aspect of it relates to Midland and Odessa being an energy corridor, Fawcett said. Because the majority of Texans live east of the area, it will better connect the rest of the state to the Permian Basin.

“With the amount of oil and gas activity here, we need more corridors to connect people out here,” Fawcett said. “It just opens up the transportation of goods, commodities and humans.”

The bill was originally filed as a standalone bill during last year’s legislation session, but died without going to a vote. Fawcett said they are hoping this year, it will be passed as part of the larger FAST Act bill addressing highway infrastructure. Fawcett called it a “Christmas tree bill” where everyone tries to throw their own smaller bill, or ornament, onto it, and this would be one of those ornaments.

U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) is one of the original cosponsors of the bill, and said it was critical for local infrastructure to continue to be built to support the area’s growing economy.

“The I-14 expansion through San Angelo to Midland provides a safer route for travelers in the area, and directly connects the Permian Basin — the top oil and gas producing region in the world — with one of the largest ports in the country,” Conaway said in a prepared statement. “Access to an interstate highway is imperative to the continued development of West Texas.”