After the Texas Department of Transportation launched an online survey to gauge Nacogdoches and Angelina County residents’ interest in the development of I-69, the majority of participants favor improvements to U.S. 59 over construction of a new corridor.

“On the Angelina County upgrade option, 26 strongly support it,” said general engineering consultant Tina Brown. “On the new location, 62 percent do not support it.”

The numbers were similar for the Nacogdoches project. Brown said 26 percent strongly support upgrading U.S. 59, and that 21 percent do not support new construction.

During a third meeting of the I-69 Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties Committee on Tuesday at the Nacogdoches Civic Center, 10 of its 20 members exchanged ideas on how the interstate should be built — whether that means improvements to U.S. 59 from northeast of Nacogdoches to south of Lufkin or building a new corridor west of U.S. 59 near Nacogdoches and east of the highway near Lufkin. That design means U.S. 59 and I-69 would overlap at the Angelina River.

“As we cross the Angelina River, it’s obvious we should stay on the 59 footprint,” said Nacogdoches City Manager Jim Jeffers, a member of the committee. “It’s difficult to compare (the two designs) because we don’t have cost estimates. The longer we stay on the 59 footprint, the quicker the project will be built.”

TxDOT’s Lufkin district in the 1990s and early 2000s, studied relief routes for U.S. 59 in Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Diboll in what was called the U.S. 59 master plan. That work, however, was “put on hold” during the development of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“Now that TTC is dead, TxDOT is studying I-69 in the area with help from the community,” committee documents show.

Some committee members said they have received questions from residents about a “hybrid” design that uses a combination of the U.S. 59 corridor and the proposed I-69 route between Nacogdoches and Lufkin.

“You never know where a good idea may come from,” meeting facilitator Tracy Hill said. “In 1999, we were as sure as we could get (on the route design). But that was in 1999.”

At the same time, the committee said the development should not stunt economic development around either city.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, project manager Kelly Morris explained how committee members should make presentations to civic clubs about their work and described which materials are available for distribution, including pocket cards, fact sheets and a PowerPoint document.

In June, the Texas Transportation Commission funded a study for developing I-69 in the area. The I-69 Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties Committee is charged with submitting recommendations on new routes or improvements to U.S. 59 to meet interstate standards.

The survey is at www.surveymonkey.com/s/I-69AngandNac. Comments may also be submitted at www.txdot.gov/drivenbytexans/us59.htm.

An open house is scheduled for March 25 at the Nacogdoches Civic Center, followed the next day by the same event at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center in Lufkin.

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