The Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce hosted joint ceremonies Saturday to celebrate the designation of the Fort Hood-Central Texas Region as a Great American Defense Community and to unveil Interstate 14 signage.
The ceremony was at Central Texas College’s Anderson Campus Center.
“The designation of U.S. 190 as Interstate Highway 14 is a tremendous achievement and would not have been possible without incredible teamwork and support from our local communities,” said Fort Hood garrison commander Col. Todd Fox.
Congressmen John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Roger Williams, R-Austin, unveiled the first I-14 signs to be later installed on U.S. Highway 190 between Copperas Cove and Belton.
“(The designation) shows the ... commitment to the military in this country,” Williams said. “It’s shows we’ve got teamwork from local levels to the state level to the federal level.”
The 25-mile stretch of highway from Copperas Cove to Interstate 35 was designated I-14 in January by the Texas Department of Transportation. There is a bigger plan to stretch the interstate from El Paso to Savannah, Ga., linking several military bases.
“This is an important first step to a much larger highway network that will strategically link Fort Hood and military installations across the southern United States with ports on the Gulf Coast,” said state Rep. Hugh D. Shine, R-Temple, in a January news release. “This highway network will ultimately enhance, expedite and facilitate the deployment of military assets whenever necessary for our national defense.”
Proponents say having an interstate in Killeen could lure more businesses to the area.
“Through the combined efforts of many, we were able to bring a long-term initiative to fruition that will not only improve safety and add future capacity to the roadway, but will also have a significant economic development impact on the region,” said state Rep. Scott Cosper, R-Killeen, in a February news release from the chamber.
Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Ken Roberts said local residents should start seeing I-14 signs on the highway in the Killeen area by August or September.
“The improvements and subsequent designation have significantly enhanced Fort Hood’s ability to meet our national security objectives, by ensuring that we have the infrastructure necessary to move equipment in support of deployments from Fort Hood to locations around the world,” Fox said. “(The designation) enables our reserve component partners to bring equipment to Fort Hood in support of both annual training, and mobilization efforts.”
The Fort Hood area is one of eight communities selected for the 2017 defense community designation, according to a news release from the city of Killeen.
Bill Parry, vice president of the Great American Defense Community, presented U.S. flags to Fox, representing Fort Hood; the county judges of Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties; and the mayors of Belton, Copperas Cove, Gatesville, Harker Heights, Killeen, Lampasas and Temple.