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      I-69 expands into South Texas

      After nearly a quarter of a century, the I-69 expansion is finally becoming a reality.

      TXDOT officially unveiled the first South Texas I-69 road sign in Pharr Monday.

      Instrumental to making it happen is former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) who pushed to get signage for the interstate through her last appropriations bill before she left the Senate.

      Now that the signs are up, there will be a lot more opportunities and I think the federal funding will flow, Hutchison said. I feel really good about this. This corridor will be really important for South Texas.

      Thanks to a recently changed law, sections of the current highways that are up to interstate standards may be converted to interstate status without having to connect to the existing interstate.

      The more than $700 million project will eventually consist of three I-69 legs; East, West and Central as well as US 83 converting to I-2.

      Legislators from the valley are promising the new interstate will bring more economic development.

      Any society will tell you that if you have highway infrastructure you will move people and goods faster and that means more economic development, U.S. congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) said.

      Tourism is going to double and triple, U.S. congressman Rueben Hinojosa (D-TX) said.

      UTPA President Dr. Robert Nelson said it will help the expanding university as well.

      For the university it means we will be able to grow, it means we will have more businesses down here, we will have more jobs for our students, we will be able to better partner with business, and it TMs very exciting, Nelson said.

      Legislators said the new interstate will increase the already $1.2 billion worth of trade each day between Mexico and the U.S.

      The I-69 project is made up of 36 smaller road construction projects and it all depends on the funding as to when those it will all be finished.

      A total of 111 miles of roads in south Texas will be added to the interstate highway system by the end of the year.