New interstate planned for Highway 84?

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Legislation would create I-14 between Laurel, West Texas

Highway 84 from the Mississippi River to Laurel could become a U.S. interstate if a bill pitched by legislators in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas get passed.

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, introduced the I-14 Expansion and Improvement Act of 2018 legislation. Joining Rep. Babin as original cosponsors of the bill are Reps. Mike Conaway, John Carter, Roger Williams and Kevin Brady, all of Texas; Mike Johnson and Ralph Abraham of Louisiana; and Gregg Harper of Mississippi. Harper is not seeking re-election for his House District 3 post.

The corridor currently runs from West Texas to the Texas-Louisiana border generally following U.S. 190. The first 25-mile section of I-14 from Killeen and Fort Hood to I-35 at Belton was added to the Interstate Highway System in 2017.

The proposed legislation would extend the corridor eastward following highways Louisiana 8, La. 28 and U.S. 84 in Louisiana through Leesville, Fort Polk, Alexandria, Pineville and Vidalia, where it would cross the Mississippi River at Natchez.

In Mississippi, it would follow 84 eastward from Natchez to Brookhaven and then to Laurel, where it would terminate at Interstate 59. The Mississippi Transportation Commission earlier this year approved a resolution supporting the Future I-14 designation pointing to the potential for economic growth in southwest Mississippi.

“One of President Eisenhower’s top priorities and greatest accomplishments was the construction of an interstate highway system that connects America’s military assets, businesses, and communities from coast to coast,” Babin said. “The legislation we introduced is a complement to that legacy. I-14 is known as the ‘Forts to Ports’ highway, and we are building on that success with further improvements.

“It will finally give countless communities access to the benefits of an interstate highway, with a design and implementation process run by state and local transportation authorities.”

The Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition has supported incremental improvements to highways in the corridor for two decades. Coalition Chairman John Thompson, former County Judge of Polk County, Texas,  notes that the expanded corridor stretching from the oil fields of the Permian Basin to the forests of eastern Mississippi will provide greater efficiency in the movement of freight in each of the three states and nationally.

The legislation – HR 6111 — has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania has announced plans for legislation to expand and improve highways and infrastructure.

But before anyone starts erecting I-14 signs along Highway 84, Skopos Labs, a New York-based computer company that, among other things, predicts whether a bill has a chance to make it out of Congress, has put a 3 percent chance that this bill reaches President Donald Trump’s desk to become law.

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