I-14 signs unveiled, officials recognize Fort Hood neighbors
By LYNETTE SOWELL
In a dual ceremony on Saturday morning on the campus of Central Texas College, a 25-mile stretch of Highway 190 from Belton to Copperas Cove had its new sign of Interstate Highway 14 unveiled and area cities were recognized with the Great American Defense Community Award.
Marc Nigliazzo, chair of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Council and Texas A&M University Central Texas chancellor, served as the master of ceremonies for the event, during which Col. (Ret.) Bill Parry, Gatesville City Manager and also vice president of the Association of Defense Communities, presented city mayors and county elected officials with Great American Defense Community flags, in recognition of the greater Fort Hood area.
Cities recognized included Copperas Cove, Belton, Gatesville, Harker Heights, Killeen, Lampasas and Temple, with Bell, Coryell and Lampasas Counties also being included. The mayors and county judges for Coryell and Lampasas attended, along with a commissioner from Bell county.
“In its second year, the Great American Defense Communities program was launched with the support from the United States House and Senate defense communities caucuses to acknowledge the actions of cities, counties and regions that support and nurture their military installations and quality of life for military families,” Parry said.
From two dozen submissions for 2017, nine communities including Fort Hood and Central Texas were selected, and an outside group scored each of the submissions, including the Blue Star Families organization, Parry added. The program is for all branches of service across the country.
Col. Todd Fox, Fort Hood Garrison Commander commented on the designation of seven cities and three counties as part of the Great American Defense Community. He gave kudos to the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, namely Ret. Gen. Pete Taylor and Ret. Gen. Ken Cox, “for their efforts to coordinate and synchronize our community in support of our soldiers and their families.”
Fox also addressed the historic designation of the first segment of I-14 that was celebrated on Saturday morning.
“The designation of U.S. 190 as Interstate Highway 14 is a tremendous achievement and would not have been possible without incredible teamwork and support from our local communities, led by our leaders at the local, state and federal level,” Fox added.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by United States House of Representatives members John Carter and Roger Williams, with recorded video messages shown from United Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Also present were Texas Senators Dr. Dawn Buckingham and Scott Cosper.
John Thompson, former judge of Polk County, is the chairman of the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition and spearheaded an effort to improve the Highway 190 corridor and make I-14 a reality for more than 15 years. He acknowledged Gary Bushell as the one who came up with the idea of “forts to ports” for I-14.
“We realized how important this highway was not only to economic purposes, but to our country, to the world, and certainly to the folks along that route,” Thompson said.
Marc Williams, deputy executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, also remarked about the designation.
“Our effort in this is really serving these stakeholders the community that we have a responsibility to help develop and maintain. It’s been a team effort to get this point, starting with the stakeholders in this community,” Williams said, adding that Thompson and Bushell, along with the rest of the GCSHC had asked specifically for the number of Interstate 14.
‘We felt like we could get it onto the interstate highway system, but quite literally we knew it was going to take an act of Congress to give you the number that you wanted,” Williams said, also acknowledging support that the members of Congress gave for the effort.
After the award and unveiling ceremonies, Copperas Cove’s mayor, Frank Seffrood, commented about what the I-14 designation means to Copperas Cove.
“We are now, with Interstate 14 in its present configuration, we are the terminus, and we don’t want to be. We want to put all our efforts into getting the extra two lanes on the bypass,” Seffrood said. “Companies that want to relocate to this area, one of the first things they do is look at transportation, and having the interstate designation and having interstate quality transportation will make it more lucrative for Copperas Cove.”