Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ports to Plains Corridor Coalition wants "Trans-Texas Corridor" status for a third NAFTA Corridor

Ports to Plains en route

New four-state corridor 'almost halfway complete'


By Karen D. Smith
Amarillo Globe-News
Copyright 2006

A four-state game of connect the dots appears almost halfway complete, one player said.

Highway departments in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Colorado have been working to connect cities and towns along a 1,400-mile stretch of highways that, knitted together, make up the Ports to Plains Trade Corridor, Michael Reeves said.

Reeves, president of the Ports to Plains Corridor Coalition based in Lubbock, previewed the update he planned to deliver at a Texas Transportation Commission meeting this morning in Austin.

When finished, four-lane divided highways will run fluidly from Laredo north to Denver - even splitting at Dumas to fork through New Mexico and the Oklahoma Panhandle before reconnecting at the Mile High City.

"Ports to Plains is progressing," Reeves said by phone Tuesday. "A little over 500 miles currently are four- or six-lane divided (highway), and another 137 miles is under construction. We're getting close to that halfway point."

The route, designated a priority by Congress in 1998, could be the magnet for up to 40,000 new jobs along its entire length - spurring an economic impact of more than $4.5 billion, Reeves said.

"The main benefactors of this are the types of businesses that need a lot of land - any sort of business that needs transportation and access to markets," he said.

The potential exists for Ports to Plains to take on "Trans-Texas Corridor" or interstate highway status, if it is used as much as projected, said Mark Tomlinson, district engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation's Amarillo District.

"I think in the backs of the minds of many members of the Ports to Plains coalition, is the possibility that someday we may reach that point," he said. "The effect also would be a higher level of appreciation of the system and (therefore) more resources to upgrade them."

As the corridor grows, however, so do the costs, due to inflation.

The price of materials and fuel to get them to places like the Oklahoma Panhandle has increased with the price of fuel, said Robert Ward, a division engineer for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

"The dollar's not going to go as far," Ward said. "We used to pay about $30 to $35 per ton for asphalt. Our last bid was for $60 for a ton of asphalt. So a project that cost you $3.5 million a few years ago might cost you $5 million or $6 million."

On the Road

Road Construction

Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma transportation departments have projects under way as part of the Ports to Plains Trade Corridor effort. Expect to see orange cones at the following locations:


# U.S. Highway 87: A stretch 13 miles south from Texline is being widened to a four-lane divided highway in two 6.5-mile segments. Construction on the first section should be completed by October. The second section, begun last October, should be completed by October 2007.

New Mexico

# U.S. Highway 64/87: Crews are widening a 13-mile stretch near Raton, N.M. The project should be completed this fall or in spring 2007. A second 13-mile segment should begin in Union County near Clayton, N.M., this summer. Work on the rest of the 80 miles of roadway connecting Raton and Clayton will be performed in similar segments through 2009.


# U.S. 287: Workers are resurfacing three miles heading north from Boise City, Okla. Right-of-way has been purchased for the widening of that segment to four lanes. Subsequent segments of roadway resurfacing and right-of-way purchase will be done over the next four years. The total Oklahoma distance of U.S. 287 involved is 15.6 miles.

Copyright © 2006 Amarillo Globe-News