Texarkana Central to Upcoming Transportation Growth

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 12:00 am  

The new interstate is expected to be an expected economic boon to south Arkansas, but for most of the planning, it’s been a given that Texarkana would only see residual benefits from its neighbors. From the beginning, I-69 was promised to go through Shreveport, 75 miles to the south of Texarkana.

Those plans are still in place, but Texarkana has joined the I-69 family in another way. While I-69 has been sketched, adjusted and inspected since the days when Bill Clinton was president, recent years have seen the state of Texas hitting the acceleration pedal on the project, at least within its own borders. This has brought the highway to Texarkana’s door.

The Alliance for I-69 in Texas is well-aware that its namesake interstate is nicknamed “The NAFTA Highway” for its goal of connecting Canada with Mexico through the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, the Texans see their ports along the Gulf Coast and in Houston rising in importance once another project south of the border is completed. However, this project is even further south than Mexico – the Panama Canal.

A Man, A Plan, A Canal - Texarkana?

A major expansion of the Panama Canal began in 2007 widening the lanes of the waterway to allow shipping freighters triple the size of what’s currently allowed to navigate between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Currently, most large ships from Asia have the choice of either docking somewhere on the western seaboard of the United States and have their cargo trucked across the country or to make the lengthy detour around the tip of South America to access the eastern seaboard. With a larger Panama Canal, those ships will be able to at last take a shortcut and make their way to Houston or New Orleans in a matter of days instead of weeks.

While the Obama Administration has pushed a $50 billion infrastructure plan to Congress for building or improving ports, bridges and highways in preparation for the vessel traffic, the state of Texas has moved forward in a drastic fashion to make sure those goods will have a place to go once they’ve been unloaded from the freighters. From Houston along its Gulf Coast, highways are being transformed into components of Interstate 69. The state is rallying hard, re-signing and redesignating over a thousand miles of interstate-standard highways in Texas to the I-69 route. These include spurs and connectors with names like I-69E, I-69C, I-69W and I-369.

Interstate 369 is what what will connect Texarkana with this increased number of imports due to appear in the region within the next decade. Taking over what is now U.S. 59, I-369 will be a 115-mile spur reaching down from Texarkana to the vicinity of where the planned I-69 will cross into Texas southwest of Shreveport. The I-369 signs are already up around Texarkana and even online mapping sites display the designation.

Ten years ago, Texarkana had only one interstate. Today, it has the visible makings of three. (One more than West Memphis, the reigning hot spot in Arkansas for busy interstate junctions.) With $513 million to be saved annually by transportation companies across the seven-state area to be served by I-49 and the fast-approaching status of I-69 from the south, it’s a safe bet Texarkana will remain in the middle of it all for decades to come.



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