A project in the works for at least 15 years came to fruition last week, with the announcement that Congress approved renaming U.S. Highway 190 to Interstate 14.
The measure was included in a five-year transportation bill that was signed into law last Friday.
The Interstate 14 measure was sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The bill was authored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Brian Babin of Woodville along with support from Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi.
The highway’s new name will be bestowed once a technical review is completed and the new designation is approved by the Federal Highway Administration, American Association of Highway and Transportation officials, and the Texas Transportation Commission.
That process could be completed within a year, said John Thompson, spokesman for the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition.
The highway will follow U.S. 190 through Killeen, Belton, Bryan-College Station, Livingston, Huntsville and down into southeast Texas in Woodville and Jasper before ending at State Highway 63 at the Sabine River.
A stretch of U.S. 190 serving the Fort Hood-Killeen area and extending from Interstate 35 at Belton to Copperas Cove is already at interstate highway standard, Thompson said.
Representatives from cities within the Greater Fort Hood area have worked with the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition since 2000 for the I-14 system. The goal is to connect military installations from Texas to Georgia and provide faster access to highways to ports.
Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper has worked on the project since he first became a city councilman in 2000.
“Many times over the past 15 years, we have bid on or tried to entice larger companies to come into Killeen, and it’s almost always a prerequisite that they want to be located on an interstate,” Cosper told Herald reporters last week.
With the highway already designed to meet interstate standards, the interstate designation helps when recruiting businesses using traffic counts, said David Mitchell, Harker Heights city manager.
“Many businesses clearly state in their site selection criteria that they will only locate along an interstate,” Mitchell said.
Gina Pence, president and CEO of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Cosper and Mitchell.
“I think having an interstate come right through will speak volumes to retailers initially not willing to give us a second look because of that requirement,” Pence said.
Because new businesses add to sales and property taxes, economic development is a primary immediate benefit, along with bringing “greater services” to residents, Mitchell said.“I don’t see any additional costs over the short term,” Mitchell said. “Over the long term, as the roadway is built out, more first responders may be needed, but this should be more than offset by the economic development that the corridor will provide.”
Mitchell said he doesn’t foresee any immediate changes to traffic along the route until development is complete.
In the meantime, Pence said she thinks there should be plans for future growth, which she said the city is staying on top of.
“Now is the time for businesses looking to expand on the 190 frontage roads to go ahead and move forward with those plans with the few locations available,” she said. “The prime real estate is going to go up.”
David Bryant and Clay Thorp contributed to this report.