Skip to comments.MOTRAN calls for changes in I-14 route (political fight)
Posted on 06/01/2017 10:57:45 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Talks have been bubbling in recent months about making major route changes to Interstate 14, but the primary organization behind the push says its facing resistance from a West Texas representative and the states senior senator.
Regional transportation lobby group Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance (MOTRAN) has pushed to change the congressionally approved western route of I-14, also known as the Forts to Ports Highway and the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway System.
Forts to Ports aims to connect Fort Bliss in El Paso with Fort Hood in Central Texas and Fort Polk in Louisiana. The plan also connects to military deployment ports at Corpus Christi and Beaumont through various north-south feeder roads.
The key feature of Forts to Ports is the construction of I-14, which already has been designated with physical signage in Killeen. As it stands now, the western terminus will be at I-10 and U.S. Highway 190, near Iraan, and will stretch northeast to Brady. The eastern terminus is at Natchez, Louisiana.
MOTRAN is pursuing a big change. The group is pushing for I-14 to begin in western Ector County and run in dual-designation with I-20 until State Highway 158, at which point I-14 would run south to Brady along SH 158 and US 87, passing through San Angelo along the way.
The idea is to serve more people while also addressing much needed highway improvements. Roadways in the Permian were badly damaged this decade during the oil boom. Each well requires between 1,100 and 1,300 tractor-trailer trips, according to MOTRAN, much of it for frac sand and saltwater hauling. The hundreds of wells drilled in the Permian during the boom took a toll on roads, and when taking into consideration the increasing shipments of frac sand from Brady today along SH 158/87, MOTRAN sees the northern route as the more sensible choice.
The new designation requires congressional approval. But while MOTRAN has the support of U.S. Reps. Mike Conaway, Brian Babin and Roger Williams, MOTRAN President James Beauchamp has told the Reporter-Telegram he faces resistance from Rep. Will Hurd and Sen. John Cornyn.
Currently, part of that U.S. 190 designation is in (Hurds) district, Beauchamp said. His office told me some of the people down there didnt want to give up that designation. But, again, when you look at the allocation of resources within these two districts, I think this is pretty much common sense.
MOTRAN recently compiled data to make the case for moving the western terminus north to Midland-Odessa and San Angelo. Key items are:
The US 190 route will cost $1.539 billion, while the SH 158/US 87 route will cost $1.339 billion. Changing the route will yield a savings of nearly $200 million.
The designated route will serve 33,907 people, according to 2016 Texas Demographic Center data. The new route in the Midland-Odessa and San Angelo regions will serve 463,873 people, nearly 430,000 more people than the current designation.
Beauchamp said that interstate design should achieve two goals: move freight and connect people. If your goal is to connect people and move freight, not only is our route cheaper, but it can connect a lot more people.
MOTRAN also compiled safety data:
From 2012-16, there were 3,264 crashes on the SH 158/US 87 route versus 245 along the US 190 route, according to TxDOT data.
During that same period, there were 45 fatalities on the proposed route versus four on the designated route.
Serious injury crashes tallied 536 along SH 158/US 87; there were 73 on US 190.
Beauchamp said he has shared the data with Hurd and Cornyn but hasnt received a response from either.
Rep. Hurds office did not return the Reporter-Telegrams requests for his position on I-14; however, Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition Executive Director Gary Bushell also told the Reporter-Telegram that Hurd is against the change. Bushell said he has been told Hurd doesnt want the change because the route has already been designated.
A Cornyn spokeswoman told the Reporter-Telegram it wasnt accurate to say the senator opposes the relocation of I-14. Sen. Cornyn is hopeful TxDOT and local stakeholders can quickly identify a solution thats best for all Texans.
Beauchamp responded: The original designation of I-14 did not have the support or backing of TxDOT. We have provided information detailing the cost savings, additional population, and traffic served by the proposed change.
So for Sen. Cornyn to say that he is looking for TxDOT to solve this problem, created by Congress, is a cop-out. They need to solve this problem themselves, and we gave them a more viable option. I hope he understands that based on the safety data we have assembled, their inability to correct their own mistake will put countless lives in danger on our roadways because they prioritized the wrong project. I am sad for the lives that will be lost as officials in Washington, D.C., continue to play politics with our Texas highways.
Beauchamp said the Cornyn office initially encouraged the route redesignation.
As for Hurd, whose district runs from western San Antonio, though the Big Bend region to east El Paso, (He) either needs to step out of the way or make a case for why the route should stay, Beauchamp said.
Bushell said the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition supports the route change and that the lobby group this year will seek to amend the route itself through either the infrastructure bill or a standalone bill. The coalitions strategy isnt necessarily to remove the US 190 route; rather, it wants to see the SH 158/US 87 route added to the map. Ultimately, TxDOT will determine which route it wants designated for I-14, he said.
Beauchamp said the northern route makes the most sense for TxDOT. Whether you look at the U.S. 190 route or the route were proposing, both are in the Odessa and San Angelo districts. We have a choice: Are we going to continue to support the congressionally designated route that impacts about 4 percent of our population, or are we going to support the one that impacts 80 percent of our population?
At the end of the day, its people in the Odessa and San Angelo districts that are going to pay the freight on this one way or the other. Its going to come out of our allocations, and were going to bear the cost burden. I think for folks out here in the Odessa District, particularly in the way of fatalities and what we see in the way of oilfield freight that doesnt show up on a lot of things because its regionally generated, we can either designate a route that makes sense and saves lives or we can continue to support what was previously designated and, frankly, is a $200 million more-expensive boondoggle.
So the crux of the problem is lobbyists directed by business executives that are so damned stupid that they are utterly incapable of distinguishing the difference between a problem where increased rail capacity is appropriate and a problem where more highway capacity is the appropriate solution. Did the oil companies hire these morons from the automakers during the bail outs or what?
Build the highway as was designated.
I’m pretty sure they’re underestimating the costs of their proposed route change. It also adds quite a lot of extra travel required - in their scenario, you have to go quite a ways north that’s not strictly required. The US190 route is by far the more straight line.
It also goes through far fewer of the well known speed traps in the area and is in an area that is sparsely populated so it will qualify for the 80 or 85mph speed limit. This proposed route change would go through or near too many towns and would likely be limited at 70.
I say build it as originally planned and approved.
That said, they do need to run an interstate-class highway from Big Springs on I-20 up to Wichita Falls on I-44. That would take a lot of pressure off the highway system in DFW from traffic that’s only passing through to get to I-35 to go north through the Midwest.
Anybody that went through the last oil boom in the Permian Basin knows this for what it is. Another boondoggle."bridge to nowhere".
If they extend it east to I-16 at Macon, it would provide an east-west corridor that would bypass Dallas, Houston, Birmingham and Atlanta congestion while adding Fort Benning and the Port of Savannah to the mix.
Here's the map for the Congress-approved plan that these jokers in Midland-Odessa are trying to get changed at this late date.
There has been talk of connecting Montgomery and Meridian for as long as I can remember. Maybe eventually they will actually do it. Of course, it takes so long to build a new highway now that by the time I-14 is finished, we will be driving flying cars.
I’d run it east from Laurel instead of north, and run it closer to Rucker and through the southern part of Benning missing congestion around Montgomery and Columbus (extend 185 down to meet it for folks wanting to to Columbus/Auburn). That would push it closer to Albany and then run it south of Macon (closer to Materials Command at Warner Robins AFB) and tie into 16 east of Macon.
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