Interstate 27 is a north-south highway, which traverses the northern panhandle and high plains of Texas.
Project Type:Limited Access Road Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:29,912 Length (mi):124.00
Economic Distress:1.30 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):137 Population Growth Rate (%):0.99
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.50 Market Size:115,764 Airport Travel Distance:17.9448 Topography:3
Region:Southwest State:TX County:Lubbock, Swisher, Randall, Potter
City:Amarillo to Lubbock Urban/Class Level:Mixed Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:34.722017 / -101.847551
Initial Study Date:1974 Post Constr. Study Date:2002
Constr. Start Date:1974 Constr. End Date:1992
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1992 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):453,400,000 Actual Cost (curr $):1,060,468,914
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||426.80||315.70||742.50|
|Output (in $M's)||1331.08||984.59||2315.67|
I-27 is a 124-mile Interstate highway between the Texas cities of Amarillo and Lubbock. It replaced a winding, two-lane route, reducing travel time by 50%. The project transformed several of the communities along its alignment, including Canyon and Plainview, and was a critical factor in shaping the growth of the corridor. The highway is associated with the creation of approximately 9,600 jobs, 45% of which are in manufacturing.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
I-27 runs north-south between the Texas cities of Amarillo (Potter County) and Lubbock (Lubbock County), through Randall, Swisher, and Hale counties. At its southern terminus in Lubbock, I-27 intersects with US-87. Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport is located north of the city adjacent to I-27, where BNSF Intermodal and carload service is available. I-20 is approximately 100 miles (2 hours) south of Lubbock in Big Spring, Texas, via US-87.
Amarillo is at the northern terminus of I-27, where it intersects with I-40, which runs from Southern California to North Carolina's Cape Fear Coast. Amarillo's orbital beltway, Loop 335, provides access to I-40 from I-27 both east and west of the city.
Approximately 15 miles south of Amarillo, I-27 runs through the city of Canyon (pop. 12,800 in Randall County). The rural portion of I-27 runs through several small towns, including Tulia (pop. 5,100) in Swisher County and through the Hale County seat of Plainview (pop. 21,000)1.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Amarillo and Lubbock are mid-sized cities in the Texas Panhandle, surrounded by vast agricultural lands dotted with small towns. With nearly 200,000 residents, Amarillo is the 14th largest city in Texas and is the center of a regional trade area that provides retail, personal and business services for residents and businesses throughout the 26-county Texas Panhandle region, as well as adjacent Oklahoma and New Mexico and nearby Kansas and southern Colorado.
Home to Texas Tech University, Lubbock has been dubbed "Hub City", a nod to the city's position at the economic, education, and health care hub of Texas' South Plains region. With 264,000 people, Lubbock is the 90th largest city in the United States and the 11th largest in Texas. The area between Lubbock and Amarillo is rural and sparsely populated. Plainview, in Hale County, is the largest town along the non-metro portion of the corridor.
Between 1969 and 2002, the I-27 corridor has experienced growth below both Texas statewide and US averages. Within the corridor, growth has varied widely, from consistent growth in Lubbock and Randall Counties, to declining population in Swisher. Hale County experienced population decline through 1992, but that trend appears to have been reversed in more recent years.
As with population, the I-27 corridor faced slower employment growth than the state as a whole, though there was a clear increase in economic activity when construction of the Interstate began between 1969 and 1975.
Construction on I-27 began in the mid-1970's and was completed in 1992. Most of the highway is a four-lane freeway, though it is six lanes through much of Amarillo. The total project cost was $453.4 million.
There were several motivations for the project. First, as with the rest of the Interstate highway system, I-27 was designed to provide military access in this case to Reese Air Force Base, home to the Air Corps Advanced Flying School. (Reese was closed in 1997 by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission). Furthermore, at the time the decision was made to include Lubbock in the Interstate system, it was one of only three cities of its size without an interstate highway. Finally, United States Representative from Texas District 19, Congressman George Mahon, was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 1964 through 1979, and was instrumental in securing project funding.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Corridor-wide, I-27 resulted in a dramatic travel time reduction between Amarillo and Lubbock as the previous highway had numerous traffic signals and lower speed limits. The interstate cuts travel time between the two cities in half, saving 100 minutes compared to the old route viatwo-lane highways.
The impact on travel patterns within Lubbock has been minimal as most travel occurred and continues to occur along the city's major arterials. The leadership in Lubbock has been entrepreneurial in using local money (such as franchise fees from utilities) to leverage state funds to develop and improve its local arterial system. As a result they are well designed and maintained, and provide convenient, un-congested access throughout the city.
In Amarillo, I-27 has helped to maximize the development potential of the city's east-west I-40 corridor. It has contributed to an increase in commuting between Amarillo and Canyon. The resulting economic integration is described below in section 4.2
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
While I-40 is the corridor that gives Amarillo national visibility, I-27 is considered a tremendous local asset. The most notable impact of I-27 has been the significant amount of residential development between Amarillo and Canyon that has occurred over the last decade. Between 1990 and 2000, Canyon's population grew by 13%, and along with that growth, population-serving retail sprung up all along I-27. Today there is a Wal-Mart Supercenter at each end of that segment of the corridor.
The southwest quadrant of Loop 335 between I-27 and I-40 has experienced significant retail growth including a new hotel, movie theater complex, and a farm supply store. The eastern portion of the loop, particularly the northeastern quadrant near the airport, has experienced notable industrial development including major food distributors, a cheese packaging plant, and a wind energy components manufacturer. According to local economic developers, I-27 accounts for about 15 percent of retail and industrial jobs citywide, mostly concentrated along the I-27 corridor.
In Lubbock, there has been less retail and office development along I-27. Instead, the highway has facilitated industrial development, particularly near the airport. Since the completion of I-27, the Lubbock Economic Development Authority (LEDA) has experienced significant interest from firms wishing to locate or expand in Lubbock. However, a lack of suitable industrial sites and buildings hindered development for decades.
In the early 2000's, LEDA began planning for a new industrial park. In 2004, LEDA secured a 550-acre site on I-27 just south of the airport. Within two years, the Lubbock Business Park was completed and a recent study measured the total economic impact of the project at $1.2 billion in investment and 5,500 direct jobs.
Tenants include an O'Reilly Auto Parts distribution facility ($26 million capital investment and 395 jobs) and WesTx Packaging Company ($7 million capital investment and 100 jobs). Next year the Texas Department of Public Safety will open a $37 million forensics facility in the park, creating approximately 50 jobs.
Concurrently, LEDA has been planning a second industrial park called the Lubbock RailPort. The RailPort is being developed on a 301 acre parcel north of the airport with direct rail access. MACSA, a major flower mill and laboratory, has located a $4 million facility that employs 60 at the RailPort.
The mechanization of agriculture that took place starting in the 1950s resulted in a significant decline of farm and agricultural services jobs in the central part of the corridor. Most rural communities in the Texas Panhandle have lost both jobs and population as workers moved to more urban areas in search of employment. In contrast, Plainview has experienced a net gain in jobs and its population has held relatively steady.
Hale County, and the city of Plainview in particular, has been transformed by the completion of I-27. A Wal-Mart distribution center located there in the 1980's as a direct result of access to I-27. This gave the area the visibility necessary to attract several other major employers in the grain and meat processing industries. Between 1969 and 2000, manufacturing employment in Hale County increased by 246%, a period during which manufacturing was declining nation-wide. It is widely believed that the continued success of manufacturing in the region is tied to the access afforded by I-27.
I-27 through Plainview is now described as a vibrant retail corridor. To some extent, the project did shift retail activity away from the downtown area. While many downtown businesses simply relocated and continued operations, some did close. Nonetheless, the county experienced a gain in retail jobs that significantly exceeded retail growth state- and region-wide. Furthermore, as the county seat, Plainview's downtown remains alive with civic institutions including the courthouse and post office, as well as some specialty retail such as antique stores. The mid-corridor towns of Tulia and Happy are located away from I-27. The highway has had less impact on those communities.
Changes in the national economy, such as the mechanization of agriculture in the 1950's and 60's, growth of the service and retail employment in the 1960's and 70's, and the rapid pace of housing development in the current decade have all influenced development in the I-27 corridor. The national trend of migration from the north to the south and southwest has also contributed to growth in the Texas panhandle.
Amarillo Chamber of Commerce
Amarillo Economic Development Corporation
TXDOT, Amarillo District
Lubbock Chamber of Commerce
TXDOT, Lubbock District
Lubbock Economic Development Authority
Plainview/Hale County Industrial Foundation
Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor Coalition
Case Study Developed by Economic Development Research Group, Inc.