On June 26, 1956, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives approved a conference report on the Federal-Aid Highway Act (also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act). Three days later (June 29, 1956), President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law. To learn more about the history of the Interstate Highway System (IHS), read this article and its second part. Last week, an article celebrating the 65th anniversary of the IHS featured photos by FreightWaves photographer Jim Allen.
Today’s FreightWaves Classics article continues the periodic series on the various U.S. interstates and provides an overview of Interstate 14 (I-14). I-14 is also known as the “14th Amendment Highway,” which honors the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The 14th Amendment provides for equal rights to all persons in the United States, which is of particular importance in the Deep South.
In Texas, the existing section of I-14 is known as the Central Texas Corridor. At this time, I-14 is a very short interstate highway located entirely in central Texas. The highway follows what had been U.S. Highway 190 (US 190). Interstate 2 is also located entirely within Texas.
Gulf Coast Strategic Highway?
Although I-14 is now just an intrastate interstate in Texas, there are plans to extend it eastward into Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia (and perhaps South Carolina – see map). Advocates of the eastern extension of I-14 have named it the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway.
The proposal for building I-14 to the east had its origins in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). This bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush on August 10, 2005.
Congressional advocacy for the legislation spiked following post-Hurricane Katrina logistics controversies. SAFETEA-LU included the 14th Amendment Highway (I-14) and the 3rd Infantry Division Highway (I-3). However, the legislation did not provide funding for either highway. In addition, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has no funding identified for either highway beyond the Phase II studies to support long-range planning, environmental review or construction. To move forward, support for the highway(s) must be initiated at the state or regional level, and funding must be appropriated by Congress.
The report on the 14th Amendment Highway was forwarded to Congress by the FHWA in 2011. The FHWA recommended further environmental and feasibility sub-studies; however, Congress did little to fund these studies after 2011. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) conducted the US 190/IH-10 Feasibility Study in 2011, which concluded that current traffic projections to 2040 justified the upgrade of US 190 to a divided four-lane arterial highway. However, upgrading US 190 to interstate standards through Texas was only justified if I-14 was actually constructed from the Texas-Louisiana border to Georgia.
Studies and planning for I-14 have continued in the intervening years because of interest and support from Members of Congress (particularly those from the states it would traverse) and the highway departments of those states.
The Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition uses this photo to promote the highway. (Photo: Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition)
A key point in “selling” a lengthier I-14 is that the corridor would provide a strategic link to several major military bases as well as key Gulf Coast and Atlantic ports used for overseas deployments in six states from Texas to South Carolina.
The I-14 concept became a reality when House Transportation Committee members Brian Babin and Blake Farenthold introduced the amendment to the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST) Act that created the I-14 Central Texas Corridor. This proposed interstate generally followed US 190 in Texas. U.S. Senator John Cornyn of Texas sponsored the same amendment in the United States Senate. The official “Future I-14” designation was approved when the FAST Act was signed into law by President Obama on December 4, 2015.
Work in Texas
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the FHWA approved the I-14 designation. The Texas Transportation Commission made I-14 numbering official on January 26, 2017, and the official signage ceremony was held April 22, 2017 in Killeen, Texas on the Central Texas College campus.
Currently, Interstate 14 follows US 190 from Brady east to Killeen, Temple, Bryan-College Station, Livingston and Woodville, and SH 63 between Jasper and the Sabine River. The existing highway linking the four cities is already built to interstate standards and its length is a bit longer than 25 miles. It has been expanded from four to six lanes in Killeen, Texas, and there are some plans to expand to six lanes to I-35 in Belton.
The remainder of the Central Texas Corridor requires future construction or upgrades to existing US 190.
U.S. Rep. Babin introduced the “I-14 Forts to Ports” legislation on April 11, 2019. The legislation calls for the extension of I-14 to Odessa, as well as the proposed route to South Carolina. He has also proposed that I-14 be split between I-14 North and I-14 South. The northern portion would run toward Odessa using a portion of Loop 338 and terminate at I-20. I-14 South would be routed on the current US-190 roadbed to I-10 and split off I-14 North at SH 349.
History and potential
In 2004, U.S. Rep. Max Burns of Georgia and other legislators proposed the 14th Amendment Highway, or Interstate 14. It was envisioned to run west to Austin, Texas, and east to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (connecting with I-20), creating the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway.
While nothing is set in stone, the sections of the I-14 corridor that would follow the current U.S. 80 is part of Congressional High Priority Corridor 6. This corridor consists of the following road segments:
U.S. 80 from Meridian, Mississippi to Montgomery, Alabama via Demopolis and Selma
Interstate 85 from Montgomery to Auburn-Opelika
U.S. 80 or U.S. 280 from Auburn-Opelika to Columbus, Georgia
U.S. 80 from Columbus to Macon
Interstate 16 from Macon to Savannah
According to the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition’s website, “Work continues to get the Interstate 14 corridor across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi fully designated by the U.S. Congress.”
When fully constructed, the I-14 Central Texas Corridor will run from west Texas to the Texas-Louisiana border, generally following US 190. The first 25-mile section of I-14 from Killeen and Fort Hood to I-35 at Belton was added to the Interstate Highway System in 2017.
The proposed Congressional legislation would create the Central Louisiana Corridor. This would extend the I-14 corridor eastward through Louisiana and would follow several existing highways – LA 8, LA 28 and US 84. The proposed route in Louisiana would travel through or near Leesville, Fort Polk, Alexandria, Pineville and Vidalia (where it would cross the Mississippi River) into Mississippi.
If the highway is extended into Mississippi it would create the Central Mississippi Corridor. The corridor would follow US 84 eastward from Natchez to Brookhaven and then to Laurel (where it would terminate at its proposed junction with Interstate 59). There would also be a north-south interstate spur; it would run south from Laurel to Gulfport (generally following US 49) and pass near the U.S. Army’s Camp Shelby. A resolution supporting the Future I-14 was approved by the Mississippi Transportation Commission; the Commission is keenly aware that the interstate would generate economic growth in south Mississippi.
Will the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway be built as it is envisioned? There is support for the interstate in several states; however, funding must be appropriated by Congress and then funds from the individual states is also necessary.