By BOB CAMPBELL Odessa American
ODESSA, Texas (AP) — The race is on for extending Interstate 27 from Oklahoma to the U.S.-Mexico border and Permian Basin leaders are lobbying earnestly for the big road to run through here.
Currently covering only the 121 miles between Lubbock and Amarillo, it appears certain that I-27 will join Interstate 35 as Texas’ only major north-south highways, they say.
Republican congressional nominee August Pfluger of San Angelo, Odessa State Rep. Brooks Landgraf and Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance President James Beauchamp say it won’t be easy to swing the road west away from the old Ports-to-Plains route down U.S. 87 through Big Spring; but they promise an all-out scrap to tug the Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration around to their view.
“I absolutely feel there is sufficient reason for I-27 to go through Midland-Odessa,” Pfluger said. “When you consider that over a third of the oil and gas produced in the United States comes out of the Permian Basin, it’s absolutely critical to bring this north-south connector through the Basin.
“Consider also that 26 percent of the cotton grown in the entire U.S. and six of the 25 biggest food plants are along this proposed corridor to the ports of Del Rio, Laredo and Eagle Pass. In any other state, it wouldn’t be a question for commerce coming down I-27 to be quickly reaching its destination points.”
Pfluger said he will emphatically take the fight to TxDOT and the FHWA. “TxDOT is doing a designated traffic study, so we will wait and see what they come up with,” he said.
“The western route should be designated as a signal to everyone that Ports-to-Plains means taking these areas of commerce and getting their products to market in an expeditious manner. You bet I’m going to be up there fighting for it because it makes sense, not just for District 11 and the State of Texas, it makes sense to the country as a whole.
“I’m excited to be part of something like this that has been in discussion for so many years,” said Pfluger, who will face Democrat Jon Mark Hogg and Libertarian Wacey Alpha Cody of San Angelo in the Nov. 3 election. “I am thrilled to be a strong, advocating voice for the Permian Basin and for all of District 11 for this project.”
Representing Andrews, Ward, Winkler and Ector counties in District 81 in the Texas House of Representatives at Austin, Landgraf noted that the northern extension was addressed by House Bill 1079.
Written by Amarillo Rep. Four Price, Canadian Rep. Ken King and others, the law requires TxDOT to submit studies by Jan. 1 next year on extending I-27 from Amarillo to Dumas, Dumas to Stratford and Stratford to the Texas-Oklahoma border. It must also analyze the possible route from Amarillo to Dumas, Dumas to Dalhart and Dalhart to the Texas-New Mexico line, the Odessa American reported.
Landgraf said making the southern route “data-driven” rather than politically motivated will bring it through the Basin. “It’s clear that as I-27 extends southward, it should pass through Odessa-Midland and the Basin, based on population and traffic patterns,” he said.
“I attended a meeting earlier this year in Laredo and saw that there was a lot of congestion at that port. As a practical policy matter, it might be a smarter alternative to look elsewhere than to continue funneling traffic into an already congested port.”
Landgraf will urge the Texas Legislature to get involved and state its preference to TxDOT, Congress and the FHWA. “The chances are better than even that it will come through the Permian Basin, but it will take a fight,” he said.
“Based on the data, it should be allowed to go through the heart of the Basin to south of Interstate 10, where a decision will have to be made about Laredo and Presidio. The project should do what works best for the traveling public and for commerce.”
Ector County commissioners on May 23 passed a resolution backing MOTRAN’s analysis that statistics and logic dictate that the FHWA should designate State Highways 349 from Lamesa to Midland and 158 over the 70 miles east from Midland to Sterling City as “the top priority tier.”
“These are the only two segments from Dumas to San Angelo that are not four-lane divided highways,” MOTRAN Vice President Dustin Fawcett said that day. “Much of the right of way along this corridor from Sterling City to the Sterling-Glasscock County line has already been acquired by TxDOT.”
However, Beauchamp said U.S. 385 should also be considered. “We ought to be looking at all available routes to bring it to Midland-Odessa,” he said.
Referring to the Nadine and Tom Craddick Texas 349 Reliever Route, Beauchamp said the 16-mile-long road running west from 349 “connects to I-20 and I don’t know if we’d be justified to extend it past I-20 or not.
“We could achieve 80 percent of the benefit at a third of the cost,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re looking at $20 some-odd billion and I don’t think the state has $20 billion to extend it all the way to Laredo. We should scale back and focus on the part that has the most economic benefit.”