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.”
- I-69 coming through Houston, though few likely to notice [The Highwayman]
- Tracking the Progress of Interstate 69 in Texas [Alliance for I-69 Texas]
Photo: AARoads Interstate-Guide