ROBSTOWN – Chilly weather, made worse by gusting winds, could not stop the celebration in Robstown on Monday as transportation and government officials celebrated the unveiling of the first Interstate 69 signage that will be installed along U.S. Highway 77 in Robstown.
"You'll never look at this intersection and segment of highway the same way ever again," John Casey, Texas Department of Transportation District Engineer for Corpus Christi, said to those gathered near the base of an overpass at the intersection of Highway 77 and State Highway 44.
The unveiling caps a nearly 30-year effort to bring the I-69 project to fruition, and local officials celebrated the fact that Robstown was the site for it all to kick off. John Thompson, chairman of the Alliance for I-69 Texas and Polk county judge, said the first meeting on the project took place at Joe Cotten's Barbecue about 26 years ago.
"This is the first (part) - nobody can ever take that away from the City of Robstown," Thompson said.
The 6.2-mile stretch of road, from Highway 44 in Robstown to Interstate 37 in the Calallen area, officially makes I-69 the first new interstate highway in Texas since 1992. The designation was made official Oct. 27, following a final approval from the Texas Transportation Commission.
Ten signs will be placed along the first segment of I-69, with installation scheduled for completion some time in mid-December, TxDOT officials said.
"Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy," State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said. "This is another stop in ensuring that South Texas is connected to the Interstate system. With the completion of I-69, our transportation network is one step further to moving goods faster, which ultimately creates jobs for our region."
State officials said I-69 will ultimately link the Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend to cities further north in Texas into a growing trade corridor. Monday's event was a first step in moving the I-69 project forward, officials said, but more committee and public meetings will need to take place to address the next stages of the process.