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Texas Intracoastal Waterway now a marine highway

M-69 is set to receive federal funding.
/ Industry News & Trends /

By: Phil Sneed

The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced that the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is now Marine Highway 69.

The announcement, which came after the Secretary of Transportation approved the TxDOT's application, means M-69 is now eligible to receive federal funding to help improve cargo capacity, which in turn will increase the amount of freight that can be hauled by sea in the region.

Water transportation has its own set of benefits, with the biggest being safety. During the water transportation of cargo, companies don't have to worry about rollovers associated with semi-trailers, for example.

Additionally, by having more freight shipped by sea, congestion will likely decrease on roadways along the Gulf of Mexico. According to a press release from TxDOT, Marine Highway 69 connects 20 Texas ports. In 2014, approximately 86 million tons of freight were shipped using M-69. The highway is also expected to help the environment by reducing traffic on roadways.

Overall, M-69 connects 13 shallow-draft ports and 11 deep-water ports.

"M-69 is now eligible to receive federal funding to help improve cargo capacity."

"The designation of Texas' Gulf Intracoastal Waterway as Marine Highway 69 is a significant step forward for this corridor and region of our state," Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Moseley said in a statement. "We are now better-positioned to shift freight from our congested roads to M-69's waterborne freight system, where it can be more efficiently transported."

Potential implications

The new designation has the potential for big effects on the transportation industry in Port Arthur, Texas, and throughout the state.

In an interview with Port Arthur News, Larry Kelley, who is the deputy director of the port at Port Arthur, said that for every $4 created in Texas, $1 would go to the maritime industry.

"There's no great funding tied to it (M-69) yet. It may be eligible for infrastructure financing. It draws attention to the maritime community and that's a positive. It will be interesting how it evolves," Kelley added.

The importance of the M-69 highway cannot be understated because of how connecting it is. According to Port Arthur News, M-69 is only one part of a larger marine highway network. M-69 converges with M-146 and connects with M-10 in Port Arthur. The highway then goes all the way to M-49, located in Morgan City, Louisiana, M-55 in New Orleans and M-65 in Mobile, Alabama.

In total, 67 percent of the freight being transported along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway spends some time on M-69.