IH 69C runs concurrent with U.S. 281 north from IH 2 at Pharr 17.46 miles to FM 490 by South Texas International Airport at Edinburg (EBG). The four to six lane freeway runs the height of Edinburg, bypassing the city center to the east. U.S. 281 extends north as a four lane, divided highway to a grade separated interchange with SH 186 and the Brooks County line. The suffix in IH 69C references the “I-69 Central” branch of IH 69 in planning documents.1
IH 69C will ultimately run north along U.S. 281 to IH 69W at George West. Construction to extend IH 69C another 44 miles north from Edinburg to Falfurrias along the U.S. 281 right of way is estimated to cost $750 million. Work includes the addition of new lanes and overpasses.2 Per the TxDOT Project Tracker, a 7.46 mile section of U.S. 281, from FM 490 to SH 186, will be upgraded to Interstate standards with construction starting by 2023 at the cost of $80 million. A subsequent $194 million project, anticipated for the 2024-29 time frame, continues upgrade work along U.S. 281 northward to the Brooks County line.
The Edinburg bypass of U.S. 281 opened to traffic in 1980 as the first project to upgrade the corridor in Hidalgo County to limited access standards.
Interstate 69C was approved at the AASHTO meeting on November 15, 2012 for a 13.5 mile section of the U.S. 281 freeway within Hidalgo County. The route initially ended a half mile north of the U.S. 281 junction with FM 2812, where the pre-existing freeway transitioned into an at-grade divided highway.3
A ceremony was held on July 15, 2013 in Pharr for the signing of both IH 2 and IH 69C on the same day a similar event took place in McAllen for IH 2 and IH 69E.
The Texas Transportation Commission approved another 4.5 miles of IH 69C on November 20, 2014. The section runs north from the previous freeway end to FM 490. Approved by the Administrator of the FHWA, this designation became official during Fall 2015, following formal notification that work was completed bringing U.S. 281 to Interstate standards.4