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 was estimated to cost $750 million in 2019. Work includes the addition of new lanes and overpasses.2 The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) indicated at forum held at the McAllen Convention Center on March 11, 2022 that projects completing the upgrade along U.S. 281 to Interstate standards from Edinburg to George West will cost approximately $700 million. The first section, from FM 490 to the San Manuel area will cost $145 million, with construction anticipated to start in 2024, if not 2023. The ensuing segment, from San Manuel to FM 755 south of Encino, will cost $200 million.3
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 for a 13.5 mile section of the freeway along U.S. 281 within Hidalgo County by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on November 16, 2012. 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.4
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 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), this designation became official during Fall 2015, following formal notification that work was completed bringing U.S. 281 to Interstate standards.5