October 27, 2020

Mississippi economic developers hopeful as Interstate 14 legislation re-introduced

A Texas congressman said Thursday that he has reintroduced the I-14 Expansion and Improvement Act of 2019, which area economic development officials said could be a great benefit to the Miss-Lou.

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas-District 36, said the legislation, also referred to as the “Forts to Ports” bill, would extend the future I-14 interstate to additional areas in Texas and along the Gulf Coast.

The measure would make I-14 a nonstop interstate connection from Goodfellow Air Force Base in West Texas to the strategic seaport in Beaumont at the Texas-Louisiana border. From there, plans for the future interstate would stretch across Louisiana and Mississippi, eventually terminating in Laurel at I-59 should Congress eventually adopt the new legislation.

Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez, Inc., said if the interstate ever comes to fruition, it would have a huge impact on the Miss-Lou.

“The impact for the area is overwhelmingly significant,” Russ said.

Approximately 60% of requests for information from industries seek to be within 5 miles of an interstate, Russ said.

“From an economic development competitor’s standpoint, just on that front it would be huge just receiving the designation,” Russ said, adding that the flow of traffic such an interstate would bring would have a significant impact on the area as well. “If it comes to fruition, it has the potential to grow our region unlike anything that has ever happened to us, like basically sticking a river in the ground. That is huge for us.”

Russ said he was happy Babin, the Gulf Coast Strategic Alliance and Mississippi Congressmen Steven Palazzo, R- District 4, and Michael Guest, R-District 3, support the measure.

“We are extremely happy for their support and hope now that the bill has been reintroduced it will be taken up by the committee in Congress,” Russ said. “Overall, we are excited and hope that it makes its way to become law.”