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20130715 Interstate-sign-unveiling AF  0037PHARR—Local, state and federal officials celebrated on Monday as signs were ceremoniously unveiled, officially designating the first 100 miles of interstate highway in the Rio Grande Valley. The new interstate highway segments are the fruit of a 20-year effort to bring an interstate highway to the Valley.

The first signs were placed in Pharr Monday, marking the Interstate 69 East, Interstate 2 and Interstate 69 Central.

Former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar and the Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin were all in attendance for the unveiling of the new signs.

The change in signage covers U.S. Highway 83, from west of La Joya to the city of Brownsville, which will be labeled as Interstate 2. Interstate 69 East, formerly U.S. Highway 77, begins in Brownsville and continues north to the city of Victoria, while Interstate 69 Central is the new designation for 14 miles of U.S. Hwy. 281 from Pharr heading north. A total of 67 miles of regional roadways were added to the Interstate 69 system, which will eventually become a 1,600-mile highway that stretches from Michigan to Texas. Additional segments of I-69 and I-2 will be added to the interstate system as sections of highway are upgraded to interstate standards.

Austin said the new additions to the interstate mark a milestone for Texas, especially South Texas, as the signs unveiled symbolize growth, connectivity and economic development.

“We hope to complete all three segments, the two we are doing today, plus the Laredo section coming up that will begin in Houston and go up to Texarkana,” Austin said.

Austin said the Interstate helps add safety and more businesses.

“Bigger businesses will want to relocate to where we have big roads and good infrastructure,” Austin said. “The Rio Grande Valley has experienced tremendous growth over the past three decades and we are pleased to take this important step toward safely mobilizing a growing population while nurturing the economic prosperity of this hub for international trade.”

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, a million people currently reside in the Valley, and approximately 1,000 newcomers are arriving in Texas daily. The new interstate highways are projected to help accommodate the rapid growth within the state.

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