Houston’s Inner Loop Getting Ready for Interstate 69

Interstate 69 Sign North of Hernando, Mississippi

Snickers and awkward guffaws are likely to be heard all the way from the Northside to Afton Oaks next week, once state transportation officials sign off on the addition of another name to the 11.9-mile segment of State Hwy. 59 within Houston’s Inner Loop: Interstate Highway 69. New signs announcing I-69 proudly to the world will subsequently be erected along in-town stretches of the freeway, where they’ll likely be targeted for pointed display in neighborhood bars, strip clubs, or dorm rooms.

Once complete, I-69 will connect the highway’s head at the Canadian border in Port Huron, Michigan, to its tail along the Mexican border, where it will spread into 3 separate paths to Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville. Planners hope the availability of a smooth, continuous ride from north to south and back again along the eventual federally sanctioned route (sometimes called the NAFTA Superhighway) will stimulate and ease trade among the entwined nations.


But how ready are locals to get on board with the new designation? I-69 signs have already been up since 2011 in separate stretches of the Eastex and Southwest freeways north and south of the 610 Loop, where it slips past Sugar Land, Greatwood, and a number of Houston area bedroom communities further south.

“U.S. 59 has been the backbone of southwest Houston and all its destinations for over 50 years. There’s a level of comfort with the familiar number and its long-running influence in Houston. In contrast, I-69 is an unknown entity that seems to come out of nowhere with no history or sentimental value,” Houston highway historian Oscar Slotboom tells Houston Chronicle reporter Dug Begley, dropping the punchline. Adds the author of the encyclopedic Houston Freeways: “I think Houstonians will be very slow to adopt the I-69 designation.”

Photo: AARoads Interstate-Guide

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24 Comment

  • Ha.

  • I wonder how much they have budgeted for sign replacement?

  • houston has a highway historian?

  • Giggity

  • Leave it to the secular liberals in Washington to name a federal highway that’s inappropriate for our children! If anything, it should be named the Missionary Highway. The only way to drive down that road should be slowly, with the lights off, and with a valid marriag– I mean drivers licence!

  • No 69’n while driving!

  • Will the 59 diner become the 69 diner? And will it get a lot more popular if it does?

  • The only lettered interstates which have ever stuck around are the two 35E/35W splits, in Dallas-Fort Worth and Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Every other lettered interstate has eventually had its number changed, because letters confuse people. Once all the construction is finished and there’s no longer any political benefit to branding every spur as a part of the “NAFTA Highway,” here’s what’s going to happen:
    —69 proper will be assigned to either the Laredo piece or the McAllen-via-Falfurrias piece
    —69E, or current US 77, will be resigned as an extension of IH 37, with the last few miles of current 37 into Corpus re-signed as IH 337 or 737.
    —Whichever of the McAllen/Laredo branches doesn’t get 69 will get a 3-digit auxiliary, likely 369.
    I haven’t read anything from TxDOT suggesting this, I’m just saying that 60 years of Interstate history suggests this is how it’s going to go down.

  • 69 Dude!!!!

  • Giggity, Giggity, Goo!

  • Well, that was a post. full of juvenile remarks..I guess some people just don’t grow up. I think adoption to a new federally sanctioned name will eventually come with time, but I don’t expect any change in the next 5-10 years. Will there be additional funding routed to this freeway now that is has federal recognition and not just recognition at the state level? How will this affect the small towns north of Livingston? Will they get a wider freeway at some point?

  • Fernando,

    It already had recognition at the federal level. Swamplot is mistaken in calling it a “State Highway” because it’s actually a “US Route”. In the previous widenings of 59 in the last decade they already upgraded it to Interstate quality. It just couldn’t receive its Interstate designation until more recently, because it used to be that Interstate highways had to be continuous to get the nomenclature. Now they can give the designation to each part as it is finished. We’re decades away from having I-69 fully connected, I suspect.

  • Guys,
    Will you just f-ing grow up already and think about how this affects Livingston and its neighboring towns!?!?! Geeeeezzzzz…..
    Thanks, Fernando.

  • Can’t be worse than the road sign in suburban Detroit off I-75 in Troy…”Exit 69 Big Beaver Road”

  • “I think Houstonians will be very slow to adopt the I-69 designation.”

    Yep, I still call it “Transco Tower”

  • I’ve noticed the sign changes the past few years, I think people will get used to it eventually. But I did grow up around Tyler, so US 69 was the main drag North and South, I guess I am used to it being a normal number. I first thought–well why didnt’ they label it I-59 to save confusion and then remembered that I-59 already exists to our neighbors in NOLA heading in to MS. What is the overall timeline to complete the entire project across the US?

  • I always thought I-69 should start down in Brownsville, not Laredo. False advertising!!!

  • You’ve all been scorned by Fernando.

  • @Neil: I think the Hershey Highway starts in Brownsville.

  • We drove outta Texas last summer, going north via 59. As I recall many of the portions of what are 69 are very rural and not up to the “super highway” label. I was surprised that this road Is supposed to accommodate so many 18 wheelers.

  • A drunk and horny Chinese guy stumbles into his house in the middle of the night and says to his wife, honey wake up, I want 69. She says, are you crazy? You want Beef and Broccoli at 2 o’clock in the morning?

  • Jon: I’ll see your Transco Tower and raise you a Houston Intercontinental Airport.

  • The state should sell a commercial version of the sign to the public. It would make millions.

  • I love the nostalgia over the name “59”. People called it the “Southwest Freeway” like ten years ago.