AUSTIN (AP) The Texas Transportation Commission approved a development proposal June 26 for Interstate 69, a segment in the Trans-Texas Corridor toll road superhighway.
Commissioners agreed to pursue a proposal by Zachry American Infrastructure and ACS Infrastructure that would develop the southern section of U.S. Highway 77 to interstate standards without tolling that part of the road.
The company wants to build and operate $1.5 billion worth of toll roads in South Texas to generate money needed to develop the existing highway. The contract also would include the right of first negotiation for the company to perform some of the highway projects.
More commission action is needed before construction can begin.
A separate environmental study is ongoing for I-69, which is to run from the northeast corner of the state into the Rio Grande Valley. The environmental study will determine the highway’s exact route.
June 26’s decision allows the state transportation department to negotiate a contract with the company, then a master plan and master financing plan would be worked out. Zachry American Infrastructure is part of the San Antonio-based Zachry Construction Corp.
The I-69 development proposal is innovative and would extend the interstate system into South Texas, Transportation Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi said.
“This proposal moves us closer to building I-69/TTC,” Delisi said in a prepared statement. She said the proposal shows the project can be built “while minimizing the need to purchase additional land and only limited, innovative tolling.”
The company proposes coordinating with local authorities in the Rio Grande Valley and the Corpus Christi area to develop South Texas toll roads. Those would help finance the initial segments of I-69 without requiring tolls to be collected along long stretches of highway extending north from Cameron County, Delisi said.
State transportation department officials recommended to the commission that it select Zachry American Infrastructure over a proposal by Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors.
The transportation department also said it will continue plans for upgrading U.S. Highway 281, which, along with U.S. 77, has been designated by the federal government as a possible future route for I-69 in Texas.
Transportation department executive director Amadeo Saenz said the I-69 portion of the Trans-Texas Corridor will be developed using existing highways wherever possible.
Earlier in June, state transportation officials said they would only use existing corridors, such as U.S. Highway 59 in East Texas from Texarkana to Houston and U.S. Highways 77 and 281 in South Texas, in their environmental studies for the project. If existing roadways need to be expanded, only the new traffic lanes would have tolls.