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Newly proposed I-14 bill would bring interstate through Natchez, Brookhaven

From The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Congress recently introduced proposed legislation that would bring an interstate highway through Natchez and Vidalia.

The I-14 Expansion and Improvement Act of 2018 introduced a week ago would expand upon designated roadways for the future I-14 corridor, which is already slated to run from West Texas and span the state before reaching the Texas-Louisiana border.

Though the process would be long and arduous, 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.

Envisioned as part of a “Forts to Ports” plan, the future I-14 corridor is aimed at enhancing military readiness and improving logistics between military bases and seaports. The bill’s author, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, spoke on the merits of the bill’s expansion.

“This would be a great boon … for military purposes or in a crisis situation of a national security event, as well as the economic viability and the advantages that this is going to have all across the heart of Texas and all the way across the country to the east coast.”

Babin first authored the legislation that led to I-14 designations in Texas as part of the 2015 Fast Act highway bill, and forces in Louisiana and Mississippi have been pushing this year to add designations within their own states.

The newly proposed bill has I-14 — or the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway — running through Leesville, Fort Polk, Alexandria, Pineville and Vidalia, then following U.S. 84 from Natchez to Brookhaven and then to Laurel, according to a statement by the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition.

Earlier this year, the Mississippi Transportation Committee approved a resolution supporting I-14, citing the potential for economic growth in southwest Mississippi, the coalition stated.

“It’s something that we need, that designation to take place and occur for us,” Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said. “It’s definitely the first giant step for us.”

The bill was introduced June 14 and currently rests in the hands of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, of which Babin serves as a member.

U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi as well as U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana are all co-sponsors of the I-14 Expansion and Improvement Act of 2018.

An approximately 25-mile stretch near Killeen, Texas, has already been renamed I-14.