U.S. Highway 190 will be getting a new name as a federal interstate highway.
It will be renamed Interstate 14, possibly within the next year, and added to the national interstate highway system, part of a plan to connect Texas’ major U.S. Army installations to major Gulf Coast ports.
Killeen Mayor Scott Cosper has dedicated much of the last 15 years to securing the designation and was elated in an interview Tuesday.
“It’s a great day for Central Texas,” Cosper said. “This Interstate 14 initiative was a priority I picked up in 2000 when I first ran for council and I was appointed to the TxDOT transportation policy board that I have served on consecutively from 2000 to the current day.
“As chairman of the TXDOT transportation policy board, I could not be more proud of our region and the Killeen/Fort Hood area to receive this interstate designation.”
The 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.
The five-year transportation bill was signed into law Friday and was sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The bill was authored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Texas Congressman Brian Babin of Woodville along with support from Congressman Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi.
The Killeen Economic Development Corporation has paid the Gulf Coast coalition about $10,000 a year in dues for the past few years. The coalition pooled that with dues from other entities interested in the interstate project and used that money to lobby members of state and national governing bodies.
“For such a small investment, we have gained a tremendous interstate designation that will pay large dividends going forward,” Cosper said.
Companies sometimes chose not to locate near Killeen due to the absence of an interstate highway, according to Cosper. Now, the federal highway designation will open the Central Texas region to new sources of federal transportation funding that come with the interstate highway designation.
“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 said. “Until now, that was an unattainable goal. Now, it’s our belief that as it relates to economic development, it will help us to have an equal competitive edge with many other communities as we try to sell the greater Killeen area.
“Obviously, interstate funds will provide new sources of funding that we will be able to access as we look forward to enhancement along this corridor. It’s a win-win all the way across.”
The news release said the federal interstate designation will provide much-needed connections between I-35 at Belton, Interstate 45 at Huntsville and the future Interstate 69 at Livingston.
Thompson said the new interstate highway will get its new name sometime in the next year and improvements along the route “will take place incrementally over time as funding becomes available and traffic demand grows with the state’s population and freight traffic.”