The I-69 corridor, a proposed national interstate highway extending from Michigan through Lufkin and East Texas to the Mexican border, will take a visible step toward reality this week.

The Federal Highway Administration recently granted approval for the Texas Department of Transportation to erect 14 “Future I-69 Corridor” signs along U.S. 59 in TxDOT’s Lufkin District, which includes Angelina, Nacogdoches, Polk, San Jacinto and Shelby counties.

According to a TxDOT-issued statement, the signs are intended to inform the traveling public that U.S. 59 in Texas is federally designated to become a future part of I-69 when it meets Interstate design standards.

Lufkin Mayor Jack Gorden, who serves as a member on the executive committee of the Alliance for I-69 Texas, said that the project has made some significant steps in the last two years.

“It doesn’t mean it’s going to be built tomorrow, but good things have happened,” Gorden said. “This signage issue is something that we came up a couple of years ago.”

TxDOT has previously erected “Future I-69 Corridor” signs along other segments of U.S 59, U.S. 77, and U.S. 281, which are also federally designated to become part of the future national I-69 system, according to the statement, and with this approval, TxDOT can move forward to install future Interstate signs along U.S. 59 in these five counties. The signs are expected to be installed by Friday.

I-69 in Texas will likely be developed as a series of Interstate upgrade improvements to existing highways, as much as possible, that are federally designated to become part of the national I-69 system. TxDOT officials said they continue to work with five regional citizen committees, representing communities and interested parties from the Texas–Arkansas and Texas–Louisiana borders to the Texas–Mexico border, and an advisory committee as part of a collaborative effort to plan and receive regional and localized community input and recommendations on how I-69 can best be developed.

“The bottom line is twofold: to use it as a tool in local communities to help economic development. If an industry or business is looking at a community and they say, ‘It all looks good, but you don’t have an interstate,’ if there is a sign there saying ‘Future I-69,’ maybe in a small way it would help in their minds that it’s coming,” Gorden said. “The other part is for public awareness. It is still being worked on and it is still a real probability, and we need the public behind it. In my opinion, in this area it could be the single largest tool to increase the standard of living of the people in Deep East Texas.”

Further information on the committees’ activities is available online at http://www.txdot.gov/DrivenByTexans.

Steve Knight’s email address is sknight@lufkindailynews.com.

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